Senator Dorgan points finger at White House for using FDA to fight drug import bill

Over at Open Left, David Sirota points us to this Wall Street Journal interview with Senator Byron Dorgan about the White House role in killing the drug importation bill:

Last week, [Dorgan] 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 context for this is that the White House cut a secret deal with the drug industry to get its support for the health care bill.

Sirota explains the importance of this development about the FDA:

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. Something smells here – something smells really bad.

Hamburg is an Obama appointee, so the FDA isn’t fully removed from politics. However, its declarations about safety are supposed to be science-based – not political. And by this Wall Street Journal account, Dorgan is asserting that, in fact, its 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.

A huge problem.

Dorgan’s amendment was defeated on Tuesday. As we noted when that happenened, in 2007, Senator Obama was a sponsor of the bill to allow the importation of drugs.

NOTE FROM JOHN: And a quick note about the “safety” of foreign drugs. As I’ve written before, my asthma drugs cost around $90 a month in Europe. They’re nearly $300 here in the states. They’re made and sold by the same drug company in the US and in Europe. Less safe? Hardly. This is all about protecting secret deals with corporate interests in direct violation of the President’s own campaign promises, again.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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