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STAT News: Six Former Commissioners Say FDA Should Be Independent Agency

FDA blueWashington, DC, June 28, 2016 ― Give the FDA independence and elevate its status.  That’s the message from six former commissioners who led the FDA for a combined 32 years, reports Helen Branswell on STAT News.

The FDA is currently part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Making it a Cabinet-level organization or finding another way to give it more autonomy would be a step in the right direction for public health, the former commissioners argued.

The newly confirmed FDA commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf, listened to their arguments but declined to comment on their call to elevate the stature of the FDA.

Dr. David Kessler, who headed the FDA from 1990 to 1997, complained of “micromanagement from the top.” He pointed out that there are about 150 people between the FDA commissioner and the president.

“They all think they’re your boss, and that’s the problem,” Kessler told a packed audience at Spotlight Health, part of the Aspen Ideas Festival.

That’s been a longstanding problem, said Dr. Frank Young, who led the agency from 1984 to 1989. “I could get to the vice president, but I could never get to the president,” said Young, who was appointed FDA commissioner by President Ronald Reagan.

Other former FDA commissioners speaking on the topic were Dr. Jane Henney (1999 to 2001), Dr. Mark McClellan (2002 to 2004), Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach (2006 to 2009), and Dr. Margaret Hamburg, (2009 to 2015).  They were appointed by Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

For Branswell’s full story, click here.

Follow Branswell on Twitter @HelenBranswell.

Follow STAT — which reports from the frontiers of health and medicine — on Twitter @statnews.