The Food and Drug Administration is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The FDA is tasked with identifying threats to public health by researching the safety of prescribed drugs for humans and animals, cosmetic products, general food supplies and medical devices used in hospitals and clinics. The FDA can withhold approval for prescription drugs and recall food batches from retail outlets in the event of safety concerns.
Danger Awareness Pros
A key role of the FDA is to raise public awareness about prescribed drugs that can have addictive qualities and be subject to misuse or food ingredients that could cause illnesses or allergic reactions. The Fox News website cites Oxycontin, a painkiller for moderate to severe pain, as an example of a drug that was brought under greater public scrutiny when the FDA announced it was investigating its safety.
The FDA operates under strict regulations regarding its investigative procedures. This means it must disclose information regarding trials on specific drugs and the conclusions these trials produced. These regulations mean the FDA should provide clear and unbiased information.
Prescribed Medication Pros
It’s not just the public who benefits from the research carried out by the FDA. Physicians who prescribe medication can also use their findings to decide whether a particular drug is right to tackle a specific illness, taking into account possible side effects and risk of addiction. Physicians may not change their minds based on FDA recommendations, but FDA research allows them to make more informed judgments.
Negative Publicity Cons
FDA reports on dangerous chemicals in certain foods or prescribed drugs may stop individuals from taking drugs that are crucial in keeping a health condition under control. Newspaper coverage of specific foods or drugs can exaggerate risks and offer an incomplete view of a product. Many people will not research claims further to find out all of the facts. This may result in consumers making ill-informed choices that could cause further harm to their health.
Time Delay Cons
The FDA must carry out a stringent range of safety tests prior to approving food or drugs for human consumption. This can result in significant delays of drugs coming to market, meaning people suffering from diseases are denied potentially beneficial treatments.
Public Perception Cons
Public perception of the FDA is often ambiguous, due to the perceived influence major drug companies have over approving the launch of new drugs. Despite their professed impartiality, rumors persist that the FDA may have financial ties to major food and pharmaceutical companies, making it in the FDA's interest to approve certain drugs and food products regardless of harmful ingredients or negative side effects. For instance, the FDA took several years to admit the drug Vioxx could cause cardiovascular problems, despite initially clearing it as safe.