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Sidney Wolfe: The Fearless Consumer Crusader Who Battled the FDA, Dies at 86

Sidney Wolfe was a tireless consumer advocate and long-time critic of the FDA. For nearly 50 years, Wolfe worked to improve public health by pushing for safer drugs, urging strict regulation of medical devices, and promoting independent research. Wolfe, who died Monday at the age of 86, was an early advocate of the movement to hold drugmakers accountable for the safety of their products. He dedicated his life to exposing dangerous drugs, such as the diabetes drug Rezulin, and professional malfeasance and conflicts of interest at the FDA. He also helped spur the passage of the Kefauver-Harris Amendments, which established strict safety and efficacy standards for drugs in the United States. Wolfe was the founding director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, which the founded in 1971. He was also a professor at George Washington University and the author of five books, including Worst Pills, Best Pills (co-authored with his wife, Rose). Wolfe was often fiercely critical of the FDA, accusing the agency of dragging its feet on drug safety and of acting as a mouthpiece for drug companies. He was so controversial that in 1997, the FDA tried to censure Wolfe, saying that he was making unsubstantiated claims about drug safety. But Wolfe refused to back down and charged that the FDA was retaliating against him. Although Wolfe was sometimes portrayed as an adversary of the FDA, his mission was to improve public health and safety by advocating for stronger regulation of medical products. His commitment to protecting the public was tireless and unwavering until the end. He will be remembered as a true champion of consumer rights and a relentless opponent of big pharma’s untrustworthy advertising.

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