Is FDA Handing Out Gag Orders to Journalists Now?

March 15, 2011
Print This Post Print This Post

iStock_000003455183XSmallThe current FDA administration is blocking reporters from sharing agency pre-publication releases with experts to obtain outside comment. Help us protect medical freedom of speech!

Many prominent organizations and agencies like FDA release information with an embargo on it. In other words, news organizations will agree not to publish this information until a certain date. This gives the journalists time to research and write their articles, so that their more detailed investigation—often a deeper perspective on a complex story—can appear at the same time as the organization’s press conference.

The journalists customarily share the information with other experts in the field to get a more impartial perspective. These experts are are always apprised of the embargo, must agree to its terms, and fall under the same confidentiality agreement as the media organization.

A few weeks ago, as the FDA was about to unveil a new approval process for medical devices, the agency stated that news organizations must not “call around and get comment ahead of [time]. Needless to say, that would break the embargo.” This is completely contrary to established industry practice. As the blog Embargo Watch recently stated, “Without that, journalists become stenographers. If that’s what the FDA—a public agency—wants, they need to rethink. And if they insist that this is what they mean by a journalistic embargo, then I’d suggest reporters stop agreeing to them. There’s really no benefit to reporters or the public, only to the FDA.”

In response to the FDA’s statement, the nonprofit Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ)—the nation’s largest group of health reporters—sent a strongly worded letter to the FDA, objecting to the administration’s “highly unusual” new policy: “[This] restriction…rewrote a longstanding compact between reporters and various public and scientific organizations. It also hampered or delayed reporters’ ability to fully inform the public about what the FDA is doing with taxpayers’ money.”

The group continued, “Reporters who want to be competitive on a story will essentially have to agree to write only what the FDA wants to tell the world, without analysis or outside commentary.”

As an example of what the FDA is trying to accomplish with this outrageous new policy, take a look at this in-depth article published the day the aforementioned medical device approval announcement was made: a major policy change with potentially huge safety ramifications was covered in seventy-seven little words. Dull, absurdly brief, and decidedly uncontroversial—exactly what the FDA wanted.

Please send your message to the FDA, and ask the agency drop its embargo policy! We must make sure that the FDA allows expert review of its decisions and documents released on an embargoed basis, consistent with customary practices in the media industry. Please take action now!

TO SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO THE FDA

Click THIS LINK to go to the Action Alert page. Once there, fill out the form with your name and address, etc., and customize your letter. We have a suggested message for you, but please feel free to add your own comments to the letter.

We’d also love to hear your comments about this article—just add your thoughts below—but remember that the messages below are only seen by our ANH-USA readers and not Congress, the FDA, etc.

37 Responses to “Is FDA Handing Out Gag Orders to Journalists Now?”

  1. Steve Thomas says:

    Why bother asking the FDA for anything? As long as they get paid off, they will do what they want.

       0 likes

  2. aa says:

    I just sent a request to investigate this to ABC, CBS, NBC. I am afraid of our government in these matters.
    All they seem to see is that the medical profession is more than one half our economy.
    they believe the doctors they talk to , and that the FDA is doing no wrong. Otherwise they would not have given them such sweeping powers.
    CBS just did a story on perscritions and the ingrediants coming from other countries, so the FDA does NOT know what is actually in the medications. That is the very reason the give when shutting down all their competitors and ‘alternatives ‘ that they hate.

    We are not free.

       0 likes

  3. debbie texas says:

    This is precisely why so many people die or become permanently disabled from bad devices, medicine and food poisoning.

    While the FDA is protecting the criminals responsible who keep making money hand over fist at our expense and while we pay the FDA to PROTECT U.S. CITIZENS; dangerous food and products continue to be distributed to an unsuspecting and trusting public.

    No one goes to prison when a company like ConAgra is caught running a filthy facility with roaches, birds and rats and moldy peanuts sitting on the floors in fetid water and with jars of peanut butter contaminated with rat feces, plastic and hairs… The public is not notified and the filth is distributed for another couple of years and the FDA does not go back in to check on the facility until more people start to die and thousands are sickened. Still worse; they confirm Salmonella in August of 2006…nearly two years after they found the filthy mess and people had died at that time…yet, the public is not informed until Feb 2007 in a coordinated release of info from ConAgra and the FDA.

    FOUR years later, people like me whose lives and health are ruined and the death is slow and painful from the autoimmune disease created by the filth in food they sold and delivered while knowing it would kill; are still waiting for the attorneys and courts etc. to stop playing games and compensate us. No one steps in and helps with medical care or bills while our bodies are failing and our internal organs are being destroyed. We live in tremendous pain and wonder how we will survive another month and pay our bills.

    The FDA is another criminal agency taking the taxpayers’ money and protecting criminals who don’t care who they kill or maim…money and greed is what they live by.

    AND just to add more insult and injury to insult and injury; citizens like me are decimated and without medical care while millions of ILLEGAL ALIEN INVADERS enjoy all the food stamps, housing, welfare, medical care at the best hospitals in the country, free lunches and education, free tuition at colleges and much more … all from OUR HARD EARNED AND PAID TAX DOLLARS. And the agencies entrusted to police our borders and deal with illegal immigration are just like the FDA…criminal and useless parasites themselves.

       0 likes

  4. patricia p tursi says:

    This is not surprising. Obama has appointed all Monsanto people and corporate people. we are rapidly going down the slippery slope to facism. But what is surprising is that few people see this coming and are silent. This gag order is a crime against the citizenry. The republic movment has a lot to offer, but are establishing a theocracy. No one appears to remember what the founding fathers recommended. We are a corporation and nothing more.

       0 likes

  5. Alan8 says:

    Most of you are under the mistaken impression that we live in a democracy. We do not.

    The FDA and other government agencies’ top priority is to protect corporate profits. An impartial perspective may have information that damages a product’s reputation, so this must be prevented.

    This is nothing new there are laws that prevent people saying anything derogatory about beef, for example, to protect meat-industry profits.

    The FDA has grown more tyrannical under both Democratic and Republican control. Both these corporate-funded parties owe their loyalty to the corporations that pay them. Fed up? Vote for a party that doesn’t accept any corporate money (like the Green Party) to send a message of protest.

    Voting for the corporate parties ensures the corruption will continue.

       0 likes

  6. sbear says:

    months of embargo is how wikileaks released their huge amounts of material; this is more of a journalism ethics issue than a drug issue

       0 likes

  7. Randall Brady says:

    Support the right to know. Democracy works when the public is well informed.

       0 likes

  8. Keith Bien says:

    If there is an action like a letter to send, you should put it on the front page. I only saw the “send a letter to the FDA” option because I read all the way to the end of the article.

       0 likes

  9. LeeAllan Gutshall says:

    The FDA is tampering with human lives in lieu of the almighty dollar. It has approved drugs known to have lethal side effects only to be taken off the market at a later date taking with it many lives that would not have necessarily succumbed to death. It seems to me that the pharmaceutical companies in their effort to make money is losing sight of the real need for medication, indoctrinating medical students, young people especially and others with drug commercials stating :”if you have a problem, take a drug” . The drug companies have influenced doctors in their diagnosis and treatment not so much finding the cause of a complaint but rather placing a Band-Aid on on infected wound leaving the patient to suffer more consequences. All chemicals have some ill-effect on the body, the FDA should be more cautious, should not try to hide true facts from the public or be influenced by the pharmaceutical companies focused on earnings rather than cure.. I do believe that we have jeopardized medical care by placing so much emphasis on drugs costing an astronomical amount, pf money, again, in the face of greed.
    Gone are the days of government working under an ethical code, it has resorted to power and greed.

       0 likes

  10. Lydia DiMarcantonio says:

    Another fiasco from the FDA. How long are we going to let the FDA get away with all the garbage that they do?????

       0 likes

  11. alfiya says:

    long established public opinion is that FDA do everything against iys policy-there is no sign of protection but rather encouragement to bring public’s health down in order to make more profit.
    All I have to say is we must reject, disrespect and ignore anything that FDA a very corrupted selfesablished selfappointed organisation do. FDA is private organisation corrupted with government and uses taxpayers money for doing things against us. We dont need their approvals which was approved for centuries, we want to use what our grannies used to to treat ailments, where is the freedom, democracy that US asks every country to be a democratic.Totally taken away freedom from the citizens of America by the law written for themselves. We dont have to beg them to stop writing and signing law for them, as it is silly actions.We have to unite in the street country from country and make public law to take all rights from FDA to dictate us how to live and what to do. We all have brain and right to be responsible for ourselves. ENOUGH OF ALL THESE OPEN ACTIONS OF MINORITY WHOMAKES AS SHEEP

       0 likes

  12. Rodney Roberts says:

    Gag orders have never serve the consumer fairly!

       0 likes

  13. Elaine Elmer says:

    What is wrong with your thinking ?
    Is this what our forefathers fought for? Any of our soldiers any war ?
    What has happened to the common sense that understands that this is how
    we destroy freedom and democracy? What has happened to free speech and our 1st amendment ?

       0 likes

  14. Mike Gazillo says:

    You are suppose to be protecting us from people selling us snake oil, it’s time you start working for the people and not the lobbyists.

       0 likes

  15. mark edgette says:

    The people at the fda are the reason abortion is legal piss on the fda and big pharma

       0 likes

  16. Georgia says:

    It is only a matter of time before the FDA will be shut down.The people have had enough of of their ways of thinking of genecide .They seem to forget ‘the hands that feed them are the taxpayers”.

       0 likes

  17. Craig Whitney says:

    Sounds a lot like what Joseph Stalin would require of the media in the USSR. The FDA is clearly grasping at complete power control.

       0 likes

  18. Joy Diem says:

    This is obviously not in consumers’ best interest. I’m curious, though, why the “in-depth article” refered and linked-to in the 2nd to the last paragraph of this story has a byline of January 19?

       0 likes

  19. Rebecca Karlen Dalmas says:

    The FDA is an agency of the US government payed off by the corps who’s money lobby for these “laws” and pay. or hire FDA ex-employees! Writing letters to the FDA will do nothing!
    The only solution is to stop unequal distribution of the earth’s resources, to stop corptocracy, to stop this present pyramid scheme system.
    It would do more for the earth to stand for one vote per person, to allow everyone to vote, where the vote would distribute food to EVERYONE.
    This world produces enough food for everyone, but gives food to those who have money.
    The only solution is to change the system. The FDA only cares about its paycheck and nothing else.
    Stand for something that will change the corruption of the FDA.
    Equalmoney.org Read and think about it, do not reject it outright. End the pyramid scheme- this system is crumbling and we can either go through the inevitable change gracefully or painfully.

       0 likes

  20. Joel Kriofske says:

    Please, let us endeavor to keep the FDA an “open agency,” enabling media to gather all of the information the public needs and wants, in a fair and timely manner. In other words, let’s have no news embargo, but rather, give the media all of the information it requests, at any relevant time in the “approval process for medical devices.” Thank you.

       0 likes

  21. paula barsamian says:

    We need complete transparency in this matter. the fda is paid for by taxes and should be responsible to the tax payers.

       0 likes

  22. Bruce Jackson says:

    With each announcement by the FDA it increases FDA authority while stripping the very citizens they supposedly are “protecting”. This is one Government agency that is getting out of control and needs to be set straight.

       0 likes

  23. Deanna Child says:

    What happened to FREEDOM OF SPEECH?

       0 likes

  24. Mary says:

    This is all right out of the playbook! The question is — do we “baaaaaaaa” like the sheeple we have apparently become or do we take responsibility and work to change it?

       0 likes

  25. Dariel says:

    Dear ANH,

    I really appreciate your coverage of this issue and others. This is so important as it blocks our right to get through and impartial coverage ahead of anything we, the public, need to take action on.

    Thanks for doing what you do.

    Dariel

       0 likes

  26. rubyred says:

    If the FDA does not tell the We the People what they are doing and what we should be looking for or concerned about, then what good are they? This is their jobs and if they are not providing the PEOPLE will answers – THEY ARE NOT DOING The JOBS which are to PROTECT THE CITIZENS!!

    People can not protect themselves if they do not know the truth about different dangers which the FDA knows about.

    The USA Government keeps TOO MANY SECRETS from the CITIZENS. Remember the words – For the People, By the People!!!

       0 likes

  27. Roger Hall says:

    Yes our Gov.thinks it ok for some Bible Thumper ( it is a book) to picket at the grave sites that Mr. GWB sent over to invade the middle east because of their sexual pref. But its not ok for the news people to tell what that medicine (which the drug companies lobby for and donate to be allowed to produce without adequate testing) you doctor is really going to do to you. Listen to the commercials. Take this pill for RA, it may releive the pain so you can walk your dog, but watch out it may give you a heart attack along the way, or make you vomit, or have uncontrolable spazams. But heck, the Doctor’s make more money, the drug companies make more money, it cuts haveing to pay SS to the guy that died from taking it. Everyone wins, except the American people that rely on our Gov. to control what we take. Yet its againt the law to buy from other countries (cause it cost 3/4 less) because they don’t test the drugs long enough.

    Land of the free
    So the choice is yours

       0 likes

  28. Vilma White says:

    We need more public information on medications, not less. The pharmaceutical industry should not get to pick its own experts, to the exclusion of those proposed by less self-interested organizations.

       0 likes

  29. Dana Ginn says:

    Those of us who rely on alternative solutions (to those offered by “big pharma”) for maintaining and improving our health resent the efforts of those fighting for our rights to do so being mislabeled as being part of the “pay for play” lobbying industry. Since the FDA has, in too many cases, sided with lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry against the interests of would-be consumers of that industry, the naturopathic approach is one of the few defenses we have. If you can’t do honest evaluations of naturopathic remedies, then just leave the providers of such remedies alone.

       0 likes

  30. Carl Watts says:

    Typical corrupt activities to violate the first amendment, to suppress knowledge and truth. They are in big pharma’s pock! Follow the money!

       0 likes

  31. James Reeves` says:

    Freedom of speech is a basic right tin thsi country. The FDA should not block a reporter or anyone from gaining information and printing it without interference.
    You aer a tax supported grouop; therefore, you should act in the public interest not in the Big Pharma’s behalf.
    Thank you.

       0 likes

  32. Penelope Seator says:

    We need to say more than they are overstepping because they use the taxpayer’s money. We need to say this is a government for the people and by the people. It is called a “democracy.” The FDA is unelected, appointed by the executive branch. They are not an arm of a dictatorship. They enact our will, not only because we pay taxes but because we are human beings in a democracy and they are our servants and no more. Instead, they are attempting to make us their sheep–and doing darn well at it, unfortunately–and are seeking now to put on the screws that may make us their slaves if they so choose. We need to see the full extent of the ploys and plays that are taking place in this now becoming quite frightening and definitely out of control federal government.

       0 likes

    • cheerful says:

      I must correct you. We are not a “democracy” This country was founded as a Constitutional Republic where all are created equal and have equal representation. Democracy = mod rule.

         0 likes

      • patricia p tursi says:

        Our republic ended when the US was incorporated under Pres. Lincoln so the civil war could be enacted. Army manuals from the forties stated exactly what you say…democracy is mob rule. But we are a corporation…even worse…..we need to be a republic?

           0 likes

  33. Dennis Oberholtzer says:

    There has been far too much illogical, control freak minded nonsense coming out of the FDA for the past five years. It is time for the heade of the FDA to be FIRED! No beating around the bush. Fired means fired! Call your congressmen and the President and get it done.

       0 likes

    • dez says:

      Is Margaret Hamburg Obama’ s Lap dog or in this case cat, in discrediting Fox News his apparant enemy. Obama seems to have adapted the Rockefeller idiom “own nothing, control everything”. By using the heads the FDA, the the war on terrorism, the USDA, and other governmen Agencies, Obama can keep a low profile yet control everything including the news

         0 likes

  34. Kathryn Weicker says:

    Please drop the Embargo Policy! Your job is to protect the American people…no one else. Not the drug companies or anyone else. If you want TRUST….you have to have INTEGRITY. PLEASE step up to the plate and do what is right.

       0 likes

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy:
ANH-USA provides a comment forum for our readers to share their constructive thoughts and criticisms about our newsletter articles and engage in civil debate with other readers. All comments are pre-moderated regardless of author. We never censor comments based on political or ideological point of view. We only remove those comments that are abusive, off-topic, use foul language, include personal attacks, or are otherwise discourteous and uncivil. Please do not post comments in ALL CAPS; on the internet this is considered "shouting."

 characters available

Follow us on...