All of this shows that there's a lot of misinformation or confusion about what the FDA does, Thurber believes.
"In addition, there is a lot of mistrust in Congress about what it should or will do with respect with laws governing the FDA," he said. "There is also a lot of concern about the safety of drugs in the United States."
Educating the public would be a good first step, Thurber added. "The FDA needs to do a better job about being transparent and open about what they do and their findings," he said.
Cases like the 2004 withdrawal of the painkiller Vioxx (banned after being tied to heart risks) seriously undermined the FDA's credibility and made some people wary of using any prescription drugs, he said.
"When they see an incident like Vioxx -- they get really fearful. That's why many people think government is not doing its job," Thurber said.
The findings in the survey were based on calls to 800 adults. The survey was conducted by the Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies and ran from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6, 2007. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percent.
One expert believes the survey didn't go far enough, however.
"Instead of focusing on whether safety is important, it would be much more interesting to ask the American people whether they would be willing to make real tradeoffs in the development and availability of innovative and potentially lifesaving therapies in order to improve our safety record," said Dr. A. Mark Fendrick, a professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan.
"This is the real question that needs to be addressed, and it does not appear that most of
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