FDA’s Califf Links Low US Life Expectancy to Misinformation

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After US life expectancy fell for a second consecutive year, FDA Commissioner, Dr Robert M. Califf, speaking at the recent 2022 Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO22) International Convention, discussed what he believes to be the leading cause of death in the United States.

Commissioner Califf stated during a fireside chat at BIO22 that the United States’ dismal life expectancy is: “not because of some mysterious problem but because of chronic common disease.” He went on to say that there are effective treatments for many illnesses. Specifically referring to the fact that almost all COVID-related deaths are now preventable if patients are up-to-date on vaccines, he went on to say that “misinformation is the leading cause of death in the United States today.”

These comments came after a new study revealed a drop in average life expectancy in the United States for the second year in a row with the number going down from 76.99 years in 2020 to 76.6 years in 2021.

The study’s findings also led to the conclusion that rejection of vaccines and mask mandates during the pandemic contributed to the drop. “What happened in the U.S. is less about the variants than the levels of resistance to vaccination and the public’s rejection of practices, such as masking and mandates, to reduce viral transmission,” said Dr Steven Woolf, author of the study and director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Compared to other wealthy nations, the United States’ average life expectancy is surprisingly low. Of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the US is not listed among the top 20 and comes in behind nations such as Japan and Switzerland by five years with still other countries like France, Spain, and the UK showing an even more significant advantage.

US life expectancy has been diverging from the advanced levels of other developed nations for several years and in the period after 2010 and before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States was the only developed country whose average life expectancy stopped increasing.

Because the United States does not have a universal healthcare system, many argue that the underlying cause of such low life expectancy is health inequity and a lack of access to affordable care.  In a 2020 PharmaBoardroom interview, Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s Principal Deputy Commissioner, commented: “Life expectancy is going down. There are fees for service in healthcare here in the USA. If you pay more, you get more …”


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