A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's (JAMA) Internal Medicine portrays worrying information about public trust in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The study, "Medical Conspiracy Theories and Health Behaviors in the United States," sought to investigate public confidence in various medical conspiracy theories that have proliferated in the US over the course of the last 50 years.
Study authors Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood, both of the University of Chicago's Department of Political Science, then commissioned an online survey of 1,351 adults to gauge their agreement or disagreement with various medical conspiracies. Those results were then weighted to give a representative sample of the US population.
An Alarming Response
For FDA, the results of their survey-and the responses to one question in particular-should be cause for alarm.
In that question, survey participants were asked if they had heard a conspiracy theory that FDA is "deliberately preventing the public from getting natural cures for cancer and other diseases because of pressure from drug companies."
Sixty-three percent of survey participants indicated that they had previously been made aware of that conspiracy theory.
But problematic for FDA are the rates at which survey participants said they agreed with that statement. Of all respondents, 37% said they agreed that the conspiracy theory was true, while an additional 31% said they didn't have enough information to either agree or disagree with it.
Just 32% of respondents indicated that they disagreed with the statement-a poor showing of confidence for FDA.
Also Regulated by FDA: Cellphones and Vaccines
The conspiracy was also notable for having the most people agree with it by almost a two-to-one margin.
The next highest-believed conspiracy theories also involved FDA, albeit to lesser degrees. Twenty percent of respondents said they agreed with the conspiracy theory that cellphones cause cancer. One of FDA's lesser-known authorities is the regulation of radiation-emitting devices.
Another 20% of respondents said they agreed with the conspiracy theory that the government is pushing vaccines on children despite knowing that the vaccines cause autism. FDA regulates the safety of vaccines and other biological products.
Needless to say, it's not good news when the three most-believed study questions belie FDA assurances of not only product safety, but also its integrity as a regulator.
[See also: "Survey of Americans Show Trust in Big Pharma Only Slightly Above Faith in Existence of 'Lizard People'"]