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Stench Rising from F.D.A. Bill

Stench Rising from F.D.A. Bill

Special Interest Politics-As-Usual Inside the Beltway

The U.S. Senate is set to vote this week on S. 830, a bill that undermines the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to protect consumers from unsafe drugs and medical devices. This bill also opens a Pandora’s box of misleading labels for food, and it strips state authority to make laws concerning the labeling of over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics. (We previously sent briefing materials to you.) A recent Washington Post article demonstrates the extent to which industry lobbyists played a role in crafting this legislation while consumers — who spend 25 cents of every $1 on products regulated by the F.D.A. — were left in the cold.

When an industry lobbyist takes a job with a senator with the specific intent of drafting a bill that contains that industry’s anti-consumer wish list, and then his wife is hired by the industry to take his place on the payroll, we believe that raises serious ethical concerns. And this bill — which has been the subject of a massive campaign by the regulated industries to wrongly portray it as “moderate” legislation to streamline F.D.A. procedures — should also be carefully scrutinized by the public before it advances any further.

But the press and the public have not been allowed to study this bill, because no public hearings were held on it before it was passed out of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, and industry and committee negotiators have kept its contents shrouded in secrecy even as it advances to the floor of the Senate this week. This is no way to formulate public policy! Regardless of where you stand on this vital issue, we urge you to editorialize in favor of letting the sun shine. The Senate, which adjourns Friday for its August recess, should delay action on this bill to give the public and the press time to digest its contents and decide whether a weaker F.D.A. is what America needs and wants.

If S. 830 receives the scrutiny it deserves, we feel confident the public will reject it, just as Congress shot down virtually this same legislation last year.

*Schwartz, John.? “Hill’s Revolving Door Open for Regulators and Regulated.”? The Washington Post, July 29, 1997.