This feels like déjà vu.
Nearly thirty years ago I helped organize hundreds of AIDS activists to demonstrate at FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, MD, as well as organized die-ins at the agency's regional headquarters here in Kansas City, to demand faster access to experimental new drugs to fight AIDS. I doubt if any of us realized at the time how quickly we would be co-opted as unwitting tools serving the interests of the pharmaceutical industry more than ourselves.
By committing outrageous acts and civil disobedience, we gave the pharmaceutical industry even more control over what was supposed to be an independent agency serving the public good by protecting consumers against dangerous drugs. The early signs of this co-optation are obvious, in hindsight. AIDS activist leaders from ACT UP (New York) soon found themselves in lucrative positions with new pharma-backed "grassroots" organizations, such as POZ and AIDSMeds, promoting the wonders of an assembly line of new drugs developed with a single purpose in mind: changing clinical markers on relatively new laboratory tests, such as CD4 and PCR viral load, that are rarely, if ever used to evaluate the immune health of the general population. The trade off is that today, the number one cause of death of poz people are non-AIDS-defining cancers and liver failure.
Now I find myself at odds once again with that underfunded, overworked and under appreciated defender of public safety responsible for protecting Americans from dangerous drugs. Despite all of these limitations, the FDA has somehow managed to find the resources to clamp down on... vitamin C! Yes, ascorbic acid. Bottled sunshine. Probably the best studied, most researched and commonly used, plant based nutritional supplement known.
We all know the horror stories of great-grandma Jones who suffered horrific withdrawal symptoms when she was unable to get out to her local supplier of this scandalous drug, due to the blizzard last week. And who can forget our childhood nightmares of dozens of school mates who had to stay home because they had overdosed when their well-intentioned, but poorly advised parents dared to administer extra doses of this noxious drug without a prescription, or even permission from their doctor?
Yeah, I'm being caustic, because that's how I get when I see such senseless irony and hypocrisy from a Federal agency that has so much control over my personal health care choices.