The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest has published a toe-curling criticism of the way the Wall Street Journal is covering the Food and Drug Administration, specifically the paper’s attempt to portray Dr. Janet Woodcock, who heads the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, as a megalomaniac who believes herself to be on a par with Ghandi. Here’s how the story by Alice Mundy begins:
“At a recent retreat for Food and Drug Administration employees, a slide show likened the agency’s top drug regulator, Janet Woodcock, to “visionary leaders” such as Golda Meir and Gandhi.
Some lawmakers are fuming about a $1.5 million contract for morale-boosting that the FDA awarded the consultant that prepared the slideshow. The agency’s problems, including questions about decisions on the safety of some popular medicines, are likely to come up in Senate confirmation hearings starting Thursday on Tom Daschle’s nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services.”
As part of her story, which broadly suggested that the FDA was not responding adequately to numerous “crises” over drug safety, Mundy interviewed Dr. John Jenkins, the FDA’s director of the Office of New Drugs, who said that the slide was to inject humor into the discussion but that Woodcock was seen as a visionary by many people.
Overall, Mundy’s story was hardly suggestive of probity or effectiveness at the FDA. The question that CMPI raises is whether Mundy’s account is fair or even credible – and it plays something of an ace when it publishes the full transcript of Mundy’s interview with Dr. Jenkins. Let’s just say that the two-day meeting takes on a different complexion when Dr. Jenkins explains it in detail – in fact, it looks just like the kind of managerial intervention and oversight that would be applauded in any other business field. At the very least it suggests that there’s a different (but less obviously newsy and scandalous) story to be told.
The disconnect is a reminder that doctors, scientists, and government regulators should ALWAYS record their interviews with journalists – and quickly publish them when they find themselves being selectively quoted.