Bioethics Blogs

Misdirected Anger With the FDA Commissioner’s Rather Perfunctory Role?

The September 24, 2014, issue of USA Today carried a story titled,
Anti-Addiction Groups Want FDA Chief to Resign: Activists Say Agencies
Policies Have Led to Epidemic of Painkiller Abuse.
The first sentence of the news
report says: “Anti-addiction activists are calling for the Food and Drug
Administration’s top official to step down, saying the agency’s policies have
contributed to a national epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse.” ABC News
reported the story that same day with the lead, “Anti-Addiction Groups Call for
New FDA Chief.
In the written ABC News
commentary, the hype may be characterized in one inflammatory sentence: “In a
letter released Wednesday, more than a dozen groups ask the Obama administration’s
top health official to replace FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who has
led the agency since 2009. The FDA has been under fire from public health
advocates, politicians and law enforcement officials since last October, when
it approved a powerful new painkiller called Zohydro [ZOHYDRO™ ER (hydrocodone bitartrate)
extended release capsules, Zogenics, Inc.)],
against the recommendation of
its own medical advisers.” Both the print and newscast reports came from an
Associated Press report written by Matthew Perrone about a controversy that has
been brewing for sometime.
The activists’’ letter to
Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell is available online and
states their position clearly. 

Unfortunately, it may be that the
activists think that the FDA Commissioner has more of a discretionary role in
the matter than she actually does. It may be extremely difficult for a
governmental official to make a decision that doesn’t offend someone or some

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.