FDA, Heal Thyself

"When federal drug officials suspected in 1992 that a popular allergy pill might cause heart problems, they turned to their own scientists. Their trial confirmed the danger, and the drug was pulled from the market," writes Gardiner Harris. "Eight years later, similar worries surrounded the arthritis pill Vioxx. But by then, the Food and Drug Administration had shifted gears, slashing its laboratories and network of independent drug safety experts in favor of hiring more people to approve drugs, changes that arose under an unusual agreement that has left the agency increasingly reliant on and bound by drug company money. Discovering Vioxx's dangers would take four more years. ... As a result of the agency's shifting its resources, almost everyone, including critics, outside drug safety experts, medical journal editors, some industry executives and even top agency officials, now agrees that its mechanisms for uncovering the dangers of drugs after they have been approved are woefully inadequate."