Sidney Wolfe, M.D., a blunt-talking crusader for change in the American healthcare system, has been a thorn in the side of physicians, the pharmaceutical industry and medical-device manufacturers since he co-founded Public Citizen with fellow consumer advocate Ralph Nader in 1971.
Since then, the 64-year-old physician has been a constant and effective voice against dangerous medications and bad doctors, helping lead the fight to ban such drugs as phenformin, a flawed diabetes medication, and drawing national attention to medical malpractice and lax discipline of doctors.
Wolfe, whose group has released hundreds of reports on health-related consumer issues, says Public Citizen is responsible for forcing the removal of 13 prescription drugs from the market. Wolfe heads Public Citizen's Health Research Group, a not-for-profit lobbying and research organization that has launched hundreds of public health initiatives, including the push for warning labels on aspirin bottles and a crusade against the Bjork-Shiley artificial heart valve, blamed in more than 360 deaths before the FDA took it off the market in 1986. The Washington-based group also publishes widely read research on drugs, doctors and other medical issues affecting consumers.
Never one to mince words, Wolfe has called members of the American Medical Association "prostitutes" for such ill-fated ventures as the failed 1997 endorsement deal with Sunbeam Corp. Meanwhile, AMA officials dismiss Wolfe, saying many of his crusades are misguided publicity stunts.