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“Sidney Wolfe – Fearless Consumer Crusader and FDA Nemesis – Passes Away at 86

Sidney Wolfe, a noted consumer activist and fierce critic of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), passed away on March 8, 2021, at the age of 86. Wolfe spent nearly six decades working as a doctor, researcher, public health crusader, and watchdog of the medical industry. Wolfe was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1934. He received his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis and studied public health at Harvard University, and then in 1970 found what became his professional lifelong mission – Public Citizen Health Research Group – a non-profit public interest lobby founded by Ralph Nader. Throughout his career, Wolfe dedicated himself to protecting the public from dangerous medical products and treatments, advocating for the interests of ordinary citizens against the big pharmaceutical companies. Wolfe was relentless in monitoring the FDA and challenging its decisions on drug approvals. Wolfe and his colleague, Dr. Barbara Loe Fisher, wrote a book titled Worst Pills, Best Pills, which gave consumers a comprehensive list of medicines to avoid due to dangerous side effects and others to seek out due to their effectiveness. This book had a major influence on how consumers thought about their medications, and it also led to changes in FDA policies. Wolfe also had a hand in stopping the approval of Fen-Phen, an appetite suppressant with serious adverse side effects. He also questioned the safety of hormone replacement therapy for women. Wolfe was a major advocate for Medicare reform in the 1990’s, which brought much needed improvements in the health care system. The death of Wolfe marks the end of an era in public health and consumer advocacy. He earned admiration from his peers and respect from those he had to go against. He will be remembered for his courage and dedication to fighting for the rights of consumers and the safety of medical products.