NOTE: Based on the reporting we've been doing on this issue here at OpenLeft, I'm scheduled to be on CNN Tonight discussing this scandal. Tune in.
Yesterday, we reported that Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is making an extremely serious accusation - he essentially asserts that the White House political staff coerced the Food and Drug Administration into issuing a safety warning, not on the basis of sound science, but in order to protect the pharmaceutical industry's profits. If this accusation is true, it would mean that the Obama White House engaged in precisely the kind of politicization of science that the Rove White House engaged in.
Details about exactly what happened are going to come out on this in the next few weeks. When they do, we'll report on them. But in the meantime, let's look at two important pieces of circumstantial evidence that supports Dorgan's accusation:
|- Would the FDA have an empirical, science-based reason to believe there is a safety problem with allowing wholesalers and pharmacists to import drugs? Probably not, because, as I show in my column today, drugs are already being imported and sold here in the United States, and the FDA already inspects the facilities where those drugs are made. On top of that, the FDA itself has said it can set up a program to secure additional safety standards for wholesale/pharmacist importation. That's right, back on March 12, 2004, FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford - a Bush appointee - testified to Congress that establishing those standards for importation with Canada would cost just $58 million.
- Almost every other industrialized country on earth allows wholesale/pharmacist importation of medicines, and there has been no evidence that such legalized wholesale/pharmacist importation has caused any health problems in those countries. As Dr. Peter Rost, a former Pfizer Marketing Vice President, has said, "It is outright derogatory to claim that Americans would not be able to handle reimportation of drugs when the rest of the world can do this."
I reported much of this in my first book, Hostile Takeover. And when you put it all together, Dorgan's explosive accusation seems logical. Clearly, the FDA knows that, on the science, importation legislation is not unsafe. And yet the FDA issued a letter saying the opposite just 24 hours after the FDA commissioner said she didn't know of any letter or any safety concern. It would make sense, then, that the White House political staff intervened and wrote such a letter for the FDA - which would be a blatantly unethical manipulation of the government's non-political, non-partisan consumer safety apparatus.
As I said, there will be additional reporting on this to confirm whether or not this actually happened. Right now, all we have is Dorgan's assertion. But we also have evidence that make his assertion seem very plausible - evidence that no doubt originally convinced U.S. Senator Barack Obama to sponsor Dorgan's legislation, and convinced presidential candidate Barack Obama to campaign in support of it. Now that Barack Obama is president, however, he seems more interested in protecting the drug industry's price cartel.
How do we know that latter argument is true? Because of the one thing that everyone seems to forget in this discussion: The Obama administration could allow importation right now by executive fiat. Yes, that's right - past Congresses have passed legislation allowing drug importation, but only if the HHS Secretary certifies its safety. This was the dishonest "poison pill" compromise crafted by the drug industry - instead of passing clean importation legislation, they endorsed legislation that put in this one hitch, knowing they could buy off the Clinton and Bush administrations and make sure their HHS secretaries block it.
But Obama's HHS secretary has that power right now. That Obama co-sponsored this legislation as a senator and campaigned on it as a presidential candidate, and now has refused to have his HHS secretary certify the program shows that the fix was in well before the Dorgan amendment even came up for a vote.
And that really shows you both how corrupt the whole health care debate has been, and how afraid the drug industry and their allies in the Obama administration are that Dorgan's amendment - if passed - would mean an end to their cartel profiteering. They are so afraid that they aggressively lobbied against his bill - and maybe even politicized the government's safety/science agencies to stop it.
We will see.