Saturday :: Nov 27, 2004

Even After Vioxx, Judd Gregg Remains Big PharMa's Whore


by Steve

I’m sure you have been reading lately about the testimony from the FDA’s Dr. David Graham, who candidly told Congress last week that the FDA was "virtually incapable of protecting America" from unsafe drugs. The issue of drug safety came to a boil in recent weeks when the FDA pulled Vioxx off of the market in late September, and it was revealed that the drug’s producer Merck knew for several years that usage of the drug for treatment of arthritis, colon, and intestinal problems led to a higher than normal incidence of heart attacks. Dr. Graham’s testimony spurred GOP Senator Charles Grassley to call for legislation creating a new and more independent drug safety function within the FDA.

Well, the creation of a new drug safety office within the FDA, something that sounds warranted after Graham’s testimony, has already gotten a “thumbs down” from New Hampshire GOP Senator Judd Gregg, who believes that creation of the new office would only add another layer of bureaucracy to the FDA. Never mind that this layer of bureaucracy would assist consumer safety, Gregg is against it.

But there is another possible reason why Gregg would be against the creation of a Drug Safety Office that would make it more difficult for drug companies to peddle dangerous drugs: Gregg gets a decent share of his campaign contributions from, you guessed it, those same drug companies that would be inconvenienced from the creation of this new office. In fact, in just 2003-2004 alone, Gregg got $136,500 from the pharmaceutical and health products industry, nearly 10% of the total he got from all PACs. I'm sure this money came in handy in his recent re-election.

Here's some of what Gregg got just in the last two years from big drug companies, just in time for his campaign this year:

GlaxoSmithKline: $10,000
Johnson & Johnson: $10,000
Pfizer: $9,000
Merck (makers of Vioxx): $7,000
Amgen: $7,500
Abbott Labs: $6,500

And why would big drug companies want to buy off Senator Gregg? Because he sits on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, which, as you guessed has oversight over the FDA. Even after word of the increased incidents of heart attacks with the use of Vioxx was documented, Merck’s footdragging was discovered, and its threats against critics came to light, Gregg has dismissed calls for an independent drug safety office as an overreaction and not emblematic of a widespread problem. In fact, Gregg says the real issue is the need for more resources so that more drugs can be approved quicker, something that sounds like the industry’s own words.

Gregg’s time on the committee is coming to a close, but he gets to move to the Budget Committee next year, where he can kill any bill for a drug safety office. So despite the deaths from Vioxx, the growing indication that the FDA is a captive to Big PharMa, and that public safety and health are taking a back seat to industry profits once again with the GOP, the newly-reelected Senator Gregg will prove to be an effective investment for the drug industry for years.

One more good reason why the Democrats can effectively become the party of reform by running these issues down the GOP’s throat.

Steve :: 7:58 PM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!