Monday, April 18, 2011

Latest FDA Gag Rule

Stella Zawistowski of ReasonPharm describes the latest FDA gag rule:
...I didn't know until today that the FDA's coercive power extends to journalists as well -- the agency forbids reporters from consulting outside experts with regard to embargoed news.

Let's talk about what a news embargo is, first. A company or organization wants certain news released, but it wants to control the timing of when that news is released. So it enters into voluntary agreements with reporters: You get the scoop in exchange for promising not to release that news until an agreed-upon date. So far, so good; we have a voluntary agreement between reporters and companies or trade groups...

But the FDA has decided to meddle with this process, forbidding reporters to consult with third-party experts about embargoed news. This means that the reporter, who is likely a well-educated layman with respect to the drug or device he's reporting on, is not allowed to verify the story he's about to print with someone who is more qualified to evaluate the claims being made.

As the Association of Health Care Journalists puts it, "Reporters who want to be competitive on a story will essentially have to write only what the FDA wants to tell the world, without analysis or outside commentary." That's a clear violation of free speech...
I hadn't heard of this restriction before, but I find it deeply disturbing.

Whenever the authorities forbids journalists from disseminating or discussing anything other than the government-approved version of an issue, we're one step closer to tyranny.