The head of the US Food and Drug Administration, Robert Califf, says pandemic misinformation is now the country’s leading cause of death.
Following the Health Journalism 2022 conference in Austin, TX, Politico reporter Alice Miranda Ollstein reported about the remarks on the organization’s blog.
“I believe that misinformation is now our leading cause of death,” Califf said, according to Ollstein. “Historically, the FDA has been relatively quiet and puts out definitive information through guidance or labels or regulatory actions … that would be transmitted to consumers and patients through trusted intermediaries. But the world has changed at this point.”
Notably, Califf called COVID conspiracy theories, like those that led to Americans using Ivermectin as a less-than-stellar COVID treatment, the “the medical information Tower of Babel.” That doesn’t mean, however, he doesn’t think we can fix such the wide-spread problem. In his address, he said he endured a “harrowing confirmation process,” and that at 70, he doesn’t really care what people think of his methods.
“I’m 70 years old,” Califf said during the Q&A, according to the Health Journalism post. “I’m relatively impervious to critique. What are they going to do to me now?”
Califf’s position could mean the FDA takes a stronger stance on COVID misinformation, although it isn’t clear what form that’ll take. Still, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air after poor official health messaging during the pandemic left Americans across the political spectrum suspicious.
Let’s hope Califf fights for the truth, whatever it may be, before it kills one million more of us.
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