Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, has had it with the FDA:
Nearly all public-health authorities in the country are urging people to get vaccines. We see the incredible results that the vaccines have had and how many lives they’re saving, and still the F.D.A. has not offered full, permanent approval of the vaccine. President Biden suggested it might take several more months. How do you understand that, or how can that be defended, if it can be?
I find it incredibly puzzling what exactly the F.D.A. is doing. The F.D.A. says that it typically takes them six months or sometimes as much as a year to fully approve a new product. And, generally, we appreciate that. There are two components to that. One is that they want to see a large amount of data, and they want to go through that carefully, and I think that’s essential. Then the second is that there’s a process, which can take a while. This is a global emergency, and while all of us want to make sure that the F.D.A. does its job, most of us also feel that just operating on standard procedures may not be the right thing to do here, and that there are things that can be sped up. Just as with the development of vaccines, we didn’t cut any corners. We did all the steps, but we did it much, much faster. The F.D.A. has to go much, much faster.
The other thing about the data—the amount of data that the vaccines have generated, the number of people who’ve been vaccinated, and the scrutiny that the data has received. I mean, my goodness, this data has been scrutinized and looked over more than—
I’d imagine it’s more than any data in modern history, right?
Any therapy, any vaccine ever. These are the most highly scrutinized medical products we have ever had, and I don’t understand what the F.D.A. is doing.
I’m pleased that Jha and others like Eric Topol are becoming frustrated with FDA delay. But take it from an OG, the FDA is doing what it has always done. What has changed isn’t the FDA but that more people are paying attention now that they have something personal at stake.
I am reminded of this story from 2016:
Mary Pazdur had exhausted the usual drugs for ovarian cancer, and with her tumors growing and her condition deteriorating, her last hope seemed to be an experimental compound that had yet to be approved by federal regulators.
So she appealed to the Food and Drug Administration, whose oncology chief for the last 16 years, Dr. Richard Pazdur, has been a man denounced by many cancer patient advocates as a slow, obstructionist bureaucrat.
He was also Mary’s husband.
…When asked specifically how his wife’s illness had changed his work at the F.D.A., Dr. Pazdur said he was intent on making decisions more quickly.
“I have a much greater sense of urgency these days,” Dr. Pazdur, 63, said in an interview. “I have been on a jihad to streamline the review process and get things out the door faster. I have evolved from regulator to regulator-advocate.”
I do hope that when the pandemic is over we don’t forget that for patients with life-threatening diseases it’s always been an emergency.
Hat tip: John Chilton.