It couldn’t happen here.

I have heard this several times recently in regard to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) tacit support for Donald Trump’s surprise announcement of a revolutionary, innovative, centuries-old unproven ‘cure’ for coronavirus. The FDA has had a sometimes chequered history with regard to the approval of meds and instrumentation in the eye care world, but few have doubted its rigour and scientific integrity prior to this event as much as now. Indeed, the presence of the FDA boss (commissioner Dr Stephen M Hahn) by the side of Trump on the eve of a Republican convention desperately in need of some positive Covid news, lent some significant, and most say misplaced, gravity to the suggestion that the blood products of those previously infected might be a panacea for future disease protection.

Repercussions soon followed and within days, according to the New York Times, ‘The agency’s chief spokeswoman, Emily Miller, was removed from her position just 11 days into the job. And the contract was terminated of a consultant who had advised the FDA chief to correct misleading claims about plasma’s
benefits.’

I recently came across a BMJ article from a year ago bemoaning the way that non-elected government ‘thinktanks’ were increasingly involved in many of the decisions affecting policy on health. Influence no longer ascribed to ‘science run’ bodies like Public Health England. Indeed, one such body, the Institute of Economic Affairs, has been a vocal opponent of ‘nanny state’ initiatives including action upon obesity. Its independence, unlike the FDA, is completely questionable as not only is it supported by many Tories with vested interests in business that might be adversely affected, it is also backed by British American Tobacco. But it couldn’t happen here.