Dorgan Accuses White House of Unethically Politicizing Safety Warnings From the FDA

by: David Sirota

Thu Dec 17, 2009 at 15:15


We've been aggressively covering the crazy story of the Obama administration crushing drug importation legislation that President Obama campaigned on as a presidential candidate and supported as a U.S. Senator. Now, days after the administration colluded with the pharmaceutical industry to kill the measure, one Democratic senator is making an extremely serious accusation.

The Food and Drug Administration is supposed to be one of those science-based agencies somewhat removed from politics - specifically to protect the integrity of its declarations on health and safety issues. That's why this story from the Wall Street Journal is very problematic:

There are several sets of fingerprints in the Senate chamber where (drug importation) legislation died, including some from the White House, says Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND). "They did not support this," and worked with Democratic Senate leaders to kill it in order to move the larger bill forward, he said in an interview. The amendment failed in the Senate Tuesday evening...

Dorgan said he can't get answers from the administration about what's going on, though he called the White House and FDA prior to the vote.

Last week, he said he heard rumors that the FDA was going to send a letter objecting to drug importation on safety grounds, which he has said is a bogus reason. He said he called FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who said she knew nothing about such a letter.

He said his timeline shows that a letter, signed by Hamburg questioning the safety of drug imports, was sent 24 hours later to a few senators who opposed importation. That piece of paper became a rallying cry for other senators who voted down Dorgan's amendment.

"I think the letter was prompted, probably drafted somewhere else," like "the White House" Dorgan said.

The White House has not responded to repeated calls and emails. The FDA did not immediately comment.

So Hamburg, who is supposed to be concerned only with science, first says she has no idea what Dorgan is talking about. Then, suddenly, 24 hours later, she's signed onto a headline-grabbing letter saying Dorgan's bill would threaten American consumers - a letter that just happens to serve the pharmaceutical industry and preserve the secret White House-drug company deal on the health care bill.

Something smells here - something smells really bad.

Hamburg is an Obama appointee, so the FDA isn't fully removed from politics. However, it's declarations about safety are supposed to be science-based - not political. And by this Wall Street Journal account, Dorgan is asserting that, in fact, it's declaration that imports are unsafe - a dishonest declaration that provides zero empirical scientific evidence - may have been written by political staffers in the White House.

If this is true, it's a genuine scandal. It's one thing for the White House to oppose a measure, make arguments against a measure on any grounds it wants. But if the White House political staff played ventriloquist for a science/safety declaration from the FDA, that's a huge problem.

We went through the Bush years - the years of Karl Rove politicizing science-based agencies and their declarations. In fact, this happened at the FDA and specifically on the drug importation issue, as Judd Legum and I reported in a cover story for The Nation. This was exactly the kind of thing Democrats and Obama railed on.

Now, we may have evidence that in order to protect drug industry profits, the Obama White House did exactly the same thing.

David Sirota :: Dorgan Accuses White House of Unethically Politicizing Safety Warnings From the FDA

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It's a sad day. (4.00 / 4)
If ture, this is a new low to protect the Phrma deal.  

AFL-CIO showing much more than SEIU today:

http://theplumline.whorunsgov....


AFL-CIO Statement Blasting Senate Bill
Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

On Health Care Bill

December 17, 2009

The labor movement has been fighting for health care for nearly 100 years and we are not about to stop fighting now, when it really matters.

But for this health care bill to be worthy of the support of working men and women, substantial changes must be made. The AFL-CIO intends to fight on behalf of all working families to make those changes and win health care reform that is deserving of the name.

The absolute refusal of Republicans in the Senate to support health care reform and the hijacking of the bill by defenders of the insurance industry have brought us a Senate bill that is inadequate: It is too kind to the insurance industry.

Genuine health care reform must bring down health costs, hold insurance companies accountable, assure that Americans can get the health care they need and be financed fairly.

That's why we are championing a public health insurance option: It is the way to break the stranglehold of the insurance industry over consumers that has led to double digit premium increases virtually every year.

Employers must pay their fair share.

And the benefits of hard-working Americans cannot be taxed to pay for health care reform-that's no way to rein in insurance companies and it's the wrong way to pay for health care reform.

Those are the changes for which we will be fighting in the coming days.

The Senate bill does some good things: It will provide health insurance to 30 million more Americans and provide subsidies to low income individuals and families. Benefits will have to meet minimum standards and insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or impose lifetime or unreasonable annual limits. The bill also includes some relief for plans with early retirees as well as delivery system reforms that may lead to lower costs over the long haul. And Senate leaders have made a commitment to close the Medicare prescription drugs donut hole which is so costly to seniors.

But because it bends toward the insurance industry, the Senate bill will not check costs in the short term, and its financing asks working people and the country to pay the price, even as benefits are cut.

The House bill is the model for genuine health care reform. Working people cannot accept anything less than real reform.



Good for the AFL-CIO (4.00 / 3)
but they need to get past the lobbying and letter writing stage and move to the grassroots mobilizing stage.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
This stinks, but is the WH involved? Couldn't this be lobbyist spin? (0.00 / 0)
To me, this smells like typical Hill & Knowlton stuff, the agency that invented the myth that Saddam killed babies in Kuwait:
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/...

What? (nt) (0.00 / 0)


Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
LOBBYIST SPIN? (0.00 / 0)
If people don't understand you, you just have to speak LOUDER!

[ Parent ]
I understand lobbyist spin (0.00 / 0)
and I'm very familiar with Hill and Knowlton. I just don't see what the relationship of these things are to this story.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
My point is, who says the letter isn't simply a forgery? (0.00 / 0)
This kind of shit has happened before. Lobbyist agencies don't hesitate to step so low (this became acceptable after the Muskie letter, I guess). And FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg "said she knew nothing about such a letter". So, why shouldn't this be a forgery?

[ Parent ]
OK. But that seems a whole lot less likely than (0.00 / 0)
WH intervention after Hamburg said that.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, ok. I just wanted to warn about jumping to conclusions. (0.00 / 0)
We'll know more soon, I guess. Mrs. Hamburg has some explaining to do.

[ Parent ]
A forgery that was cited by the Obama administration (0.00 / 0)
and the Senators who did their bidding as scientific fact based on FDA findings?

[ Parent ]
Who says it was cited by the WH? (0.00 / 0)
Did you read this somewhere else? I have to admit, I didn't follow the Dorgan bill proceedings very closely...

[ Parent ]
I can't find the WH spoke about this, but... (0.00 / 0)
...but google sez there were 339 news stories mentioning the letter. So, the FDA had to notice that, and had time to react if it was a forgery.

Damn. There goes my fine conspiracy theory about evil lobbyist agencies. Turns out it's just another WH conspiracy. D'oh.


[ Parent ]
The Whitehouse (0.00 / 0)
If someone were sending out forged letters from the FDA commissioner, the Whitehouse would push back pretty hard? Obama is pretty protective of his own image.

That said, if Dorgan's version of events is accurate, the letter is a forgery -written by someone else for the commissioner to sign, although the commissioner had no prior knowledge of it's existence.  


[ Parent ]
Or else she lied to him. (0.00 / 0)
But that sounds a bit farfetched to me. Wouldn't she have to be afraid of a House investigation?

[ Parent ]
It's a letter purportedly from the FDA (4.00 / 1)
which the FDA commissioner knew nothing about - that's not spin, but a real document.

Thanks for continuing to pay attention to the machinations behind this travesty of a vote, Dave.  I contacted Kirsten Gillibrand's office, and they denied that she voted against it.  I asked them if they thought her electoral impotence - she trails NYC comptroller, mayoral hopeful William Thompson significantly in early polling - was a function of the fact that NY Democratic voters correctly perceive her to be more beholden to the White House and corporate interests than her constituents in New York.  

Anyhow, I do hope this is a genuine "scandal" as you say.  It's certainly scandalous, but people seem to expect that regulatory agencies exist to further political agendas rather than serve citizens: yet another way the Obama administration is helping to undermine public faith in government.  

People talk about the political price for prosecuting the criminals in the Bush II administration, but the real costs of doing nothing are far greater in the fomenting and reinforcement popular cynicism.  


[ Parent ]
Yeah, puportedly. And real, ok, but is it genuine? (0.00 / 0)
I mean, the same commisioner who allegedly wrote the letter knew nothing about it 24 hours before delivery:

"He said he called FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who said she knew nothing about such a letter.

He said his timeline shows that a letter, signed by Hamburg questioning the safety of drug imports, was sent 24 hours later to a few senators who opposed importation."

Now, how were the letters delivered, how long were they en route? How much time did Hamburg have to write them? And did she really do that, and lie to a member of US congress, or is this a forgery?


[ Parent ]
If it was a forgery (0.00 / 0)
why didn't she disown it immediately?  

And if it was a forgery, which the White House and Democratic Senators used it, and Hamburg still hasn't disowned it, what's the practical and ethical difference?  


[ Parent ]
Hmm, "The FDA did not immediately comment." (0.00 / 0)
This doesn't say they actually reached her, or that she was at the agency at all. However, the explanation that this is really a WH setup sounds more likely, ok.

[ Parent ]
I've had it... (4.00 / 3)
didn't i hear somewhere that this was going to be a different administration that would not get into bed with the fat cats and the lobbyists...so the banks and pharma...what is that...they lost my volunteering and donating...

Come on, you shouldn't believe such rumours! (4.00 / 2)
The WH advisers now tell us it's a fact that Obama never really promised anything. And they have to know, they vetted all his speeches and took everything out that was legally binding in any way. Certainly not Obama's fault that 95% of the US voters misunderstood him!
{/endsnark}
:-(

[ Parent ]
Volunteer for and donate to (0.00 / 0)
people who understand the need and are committed to taking back control of the Democratic party from the DLC and neoliberals.  

[ Parent ]
It is time for a new party... (0.00 / 0)
...lets start fresh.

Regards,

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me-and I welcome their hatred. - FDR


[ Parent ]
Wow (0.00 / 0)
LOL, boy I wish Obama would have fought this hard for our priorities like he does his masters the Drug Industry. You know, little priorities like core Democratic Party principles and, what's that?...Oh yes, the PARTY'S FREAKIN PLATFORM!!!!

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