FDA insiders have aptly described the agency as a large, slow-moving animal that bleeds profusely when injured. That’s why the FDA so frequently finds itself in the public eye.

But who injures the animal, and why?

For a fairly long time now, the FDA had not been particularly visible. Recently, that changed.

The Democrats in Congress have now held hearings during which they castigated the FDA for approving drugs too readily, failing to monitor drugs after they’re on the market, and muzzling professionals within the agency for political reasons.

But wasn’t it just ten years ago when Republicans in Congress put the agency under siege, complaining, among other things, about the agency’s failure to approve drugs promptly?

That had us scratching our heads. Just who dislikes the FDA — the liberals or the conservatives?

The answer seems to be that politicians on both sides of the aisle dislike the agency — when it’s politically convenient to do so. When the Democrats held the White House in the late 1990s, the Republican-led Congress took potshots at the administration by complaining about the conduct of one of the agencies in the Executive Branch — the FDA.

From 2000 through 2006, the Republicans held the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress. The FDA got off easy — few high-profile public hearings.

Government is now divided again. With the Republicans holding the White House and the Democrats in control of Congress, it’s open season again for those who want to criticize the FDA. Now it’s the Democrats taking potshots at a Republican administration by complaining about the conduct of one of its Executive Branch agencies — the FDA.

Life is never easy for an agency that plays a central role in protecting the public’s health. But the FDA generally stays off the front pages when a single party controls both the Executive and Legislative Branches of government. When government divides, the FDA quickly becomes a symbol of the incompetence of the administration — the party that holds the White House — and the slow-moving, profusely-bleeding animal becomes a target that’s just too hard to resist.

We’re all in favor of legislative oversight of government agencies, and we certainly think agencies should be criticized when they perform their roles poorly. And, Lord knows, we have plenty of gripes with how the FDA has treated some of our clients. But wouldn’t it be nice if the criticism were just a touch more uniform and rational, and not so plainly motivated by political opportunism?