FDA commissioner claims misinformation is contributing to lower US life expectancy

Robert Califf
FILE – U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf testifies during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing. Jose Luis Magana/AP

FDA commissioner claims misinformation is contributing to lower US life expectancy

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Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf said the spread of misinformation about health matters is an important reason Americans have a shorter life expectancy than those in other first-world countries.

Califf said the rise in misinformation, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and increased political tension, “bothers him a lot.” He said it is contributing to the three- to five-year lower life expectancy in the United States compared to similar countries.

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“Why aren’t we using medical products as effectively and efficiently as our peer countries? A lot of it has to do with choices that people make because of the things that influenced their thinking,” Califf told CNBC in a report published Tuesday.

“You think about the impact of a single person reaching a billion people on the internet all over the world; we just weren’t prepared for that. We don’t have societal rules that are adjudicating it quite right, and I think it’s impacting our health in very detrimental ways,” he added.

Califf said living in rural areas has emerged as a factor in the known causes of life expectancy disparities. People in rural areas are exposed to different sources of information, which are not always accurate. Race, ethnicity, income, and education are already known causes for life expectancy differences within the U.S.

The spread of misinformation when it comes to U.S. health decisions is not limited to addressing COVID-19, according to Califf. It includes information surrounding health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and strokes. The drug industry is currently working on studies of new medicines for obesity and diabetes.

Califf, a cardiologist, said he is looking forward to the results of some trials that specifically look at whether medicines being tested can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke when used by people who are obese but don’t have diabetes.

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“A lot of the things that we thought were willpower before, we’re now coming to understand that our bellies are signaling our brain and vice versa, through endocrine pathways,” Califf said. “If the [studies] pan out, we’ll have some major decisions to make as a society. Like when do we add the drugs to the advice that we’re giving to people in the general population?”

Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped for the second year in a row in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It decreased from 77 to 76.1 years. No report on life expectancy for 2022 has been released so far.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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