Can we trust the CDC and FDA anymore?

Regular readers know that I’ve long supported the CDC and FDA as the two federal agencies most aligned with science-based medical care. True, they aren’t perfect, and we at SBM have criticized them many times over the last 13 years when we thought they were falling short. We’ve also criticized the laws governing the FDA’s regulation of dietary supplements and homeopathy. Before this year, my answer to the question “Can we trust the FDA and CDC?” would have been an emphatic yes, even after three years of the Trump administration. Can I still say this? I don’t know.

Why? If you want to get an idea of how significant that pressure is, a New York Times article from Saturday gives an idea:

“With Election Day just over seven weeks away, Washington is witnessing the collision of two worlds: a community of largely anonymous government scientists and doctors who operate in a culture guided by research, data sets and peer review, and a president famously disdainful of science, politically wounded by his failures to contain the coronavirus and now determined to cast himself as moving as fast as possible to provide Americans with vaccines and treatments.”

The EUAs for hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma are two examples. Operation Warp Speed is another. All contribute to the reasons why I now fear my answer to the question is: I don’t know any more, at least not when it comes to anything having to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. The agencies have been politicized in a way I’ve never seen before, and that damage will be difficult to undo, even if Donald Trump is not reelected. Worse, in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need more than ever a reliable FDA, CDC, and NIH, all strongly dedicated to science-based medical policy and resisting political pressure to deviate from science. I fear that, increasingly, we don’t have that anymore.