Past Honorees

At Central Synagogue

Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe
1992 Physician and Medical Activist

Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D. is an American physician, activist, and expert in internal medicine. He is best known for his campaigns against the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of medications which could pose a danger to public health.

Wolfe’s interest in public health began soon after he earned his medical degree at Case Western University and completed his residency in internal medicine. He was conducting research on blood-clotting at the National Institutes of Health when he met Ralph Nader at a meeting of the American Patients Association in Washington D.C. The two eventually co-founded Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, a consumer lobbying organization, in 1971.

Wolfe’s work in this organization led him to campaign the FDA for the removal of dangerous drugs from the market, as well as stronger warnings on labels for medications with serious side effects. In one of his longest running cases, for 30 years he fought for the removal of propoxyphene, a pain medication, from the market due to its sometimes fatal side effect of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). He finally succeeded in 2010, when the FDA recommended discontinuing the drug, which is now off the market in the United States as well as Europe.

Wolfe has published many books intended to educate the consumer on pharmaceutical safety, including Worst Pills, Best Pills: A Consumer’s Guide to Avoiding Drug-Induced Death or Illness, originally published in 1990 with Larry D. Sasich and Peter Lurie, with many new editions since then. Also in 1990, Wolfe received the MacArthur’s Fellow Program Award. 

Wolfe is still director of Public Citizen, as well as a member of the Society for General Internal Medicine. Since 1995 he has also been an Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.