Albertsons goes green

If you think mercury stinks, I've got great news.  Albertson's - a giant in the grocery industry - has agreed to post the FDA signs on mercury at their seafood counters.  They join Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's and Safeway as members of Oceana's Green List.

Not familiar with Albertson's?  Try these subsidiaries on for size: Acme, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's and Star Market.

If you haven't read your fav supermarket's name in this post yet, better tell your grocer to go green.

I know what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Will Political Appointees at FDA Overrule a Panel of Experts and Increase Cefepime Resistance?

In the midst of all the politics, we shouldn't lose sight of what government is really for: governing.  Take the following post in this spirit.

A few weeks ago, an FDA expert panel by a vote of 6-4 decided against the approval of the use of the antibiotic cefquinome in cattle.  Unfortunately, I've heard through the grapevine that the political appointees at the FDA plan to overrule the expert panel and approve the use of cefquinome.  The chairman of the panel is under pressure to alter the panel's findings, and the FDA has not posted the minutes of the meeting, which is apparently required by law.

About the post title:  cefepime, like cefquinome, is what is known as a fourth-generation cephalosporin antibiotic.  While cefquinome is not used to treat people, resistance to cefquinome can also confer resistance to cefepime which is a medically important antibiotic.

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Big Noise in the Mitten State: PART 2--And Then It Really Got Ugly

Cross-posted from Tort Deform: The Civil Justice Defense Blog


By Henry Greenspan, Founder of Justice in Michigan


As I described in my first report in this series, it was following the Vioxx debacle that there was a resurgence of serious efforts to rescind Michigan's 1995 law providing absolute immunity from civil liability for drug companies.   Grassroots organizations made up drug injury victims and their survivors were joined by bioethicists, policy analysts, and physicians concerned with public health and civil justice.   Editorials across Michigan expressed virtual disbelief that we were the only state in the nation that had a law this regressive.   Shock became outrage.   An investigative report on WXYZ-TV, the most watched news station in Detroit, began:  "In Michigan, the facts show that lawmakers are giving all their love to big drug companies, even when they slip up and make drugs that can kill you." The piece became even less decorous after that.


In fact, not all of Michigan 's lawmakers were enhancing their love life with pharmaceuticals.  

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Another Onetime Bush Administration Official in Legal Trouble

And the hits keep coming.

Lester Crawford, who abruptly left his position as the head of President Bush's Food and Drug Administration last year, is set to plead guilty to charges that he lied about stocks he owned thaht came under the regulatory eye of the FDA. The Associated Press has the story.

Former FDA chief Lester Crawford has agreed to plead guilty to charges of failing to disclose a financial interest in PepsiCo Inc. and other firms regulated by his agency, his lawyer said Monday.

The Justice Department accused the former head of the Food and Drug Administration in court papers of falsely reporting that he had sold stock in companies when he continued holding shares in the firms governed by FDA rules.

Court papers say Crawford chaired the Food and Drug Administration's Obesity Working Group while he and his wife owned shares worth at least $62,000 in soft drink and snack food manufacturer Pepsico Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y. In addition, the documents say, he held stock worth at least $78,000 in food product manufacturer Sysco Corp., based in Houston.

While he and his wife owned the stock, the panel Crawford chaired met with representatives from the packaged food industry and gave congressional testimony encouraging manufacturers to relabel serving sizes to give calorie counts greater prominence.

This is not the first indication of improper action by Crawford; a number of serious questions about failures to keep Americans health and safe by the FDA under Crawford's arose during his tenure (you can read about a few here, here and here, for example). It is also not the first time that a Bush administration official has come under heat for illegal activities and/or lying to investigators; that list already includes former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, former top procurement official David Safavian, and former top domestic advisor Claude Allen (am I forgetting anyone?).

While the Culture of Corruption meme may not be the ticket to success for the Democrats this year, every day that another Republican official is exposed as being corrupt, every day that another Republican official is convicted of crimes related to their service in government, every day Americans learn that Republican officials were fighting for their own wealth or power rather than the common good is another day that the Republican spinmeisters can't peddle their empty rhetoric in the hopes of firing up their base in order to salvage the party's majorities in the House and Senate.

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The Desperate Need for Oversight Not Limited to Iraq

The Candidate Memo produced for this site and the Courage Campaign lays out a strong case that the Democrats should demand accountability on Iraq between now and election day. Two reports, the first from The Washington Post and the second in The New York Times, out in recent days suggest the Democrats' calls for accountability need not be restricted to a bungled foreign policy.

Probe Finds Jackson Urged Favoritism in HUD Contracts

An inspector general's report charges that top U.S. housing official Alphonso Jackson urged staff members to favor friends of President Bush when awarding Department of Housing and Urban Development contracts. But investigators so far have found no direct proof that Jackson's staff obeyed.

His chief of staff told investigators that Jackson, the HUD secretary, "personally intervened with contractors whom he did not like . . . these contractors had Democratic political affiliations," says the report, a copy of which was made available to The Washington Post.

Study Condemns F.D.A.'s Handling of Drug Safety

The nation's system for ensuring the safety of medicines needs major changes, advertising of new drugs should be restricted, and consumers should be wary of drugs that have only recently been approved, according to a long-anticipated study of drug safety.

[...]

The report's conclusions are often damning. It describes the Food and Drug Administration as rife with internal squabbles and hobbled by underfinancing, poor management and outdated regulations.

The Bush administration's inability to enact policy in an efficient or effective manner is not restricted to the disaster in Iraq, nor are the negative effects of this clear deficiency only felt in that far off country. Congressional Democrats may have found that the "cost of the culture of corruption" meme was not catching on with voters. Yet there are clear instances of the Bush administration governing in such a haphazard way -- or perhaps worse governing in a way that actually institutionalizes the kind of corruption that has plagued a number of corporate boardrooms in recent years -- that costs Americans millions, if not billions of dollars and has led to unnecessary deaths.

The Republican Congress has been wholly complicit with the Bush White House through this process. One need only look at the number of subpoenas issued by the House Government Reform Committee to see the Republican negligence. Between 1995 and 2000, while the committee was controlled by Republicans and there was a Democrat in the White House, the committee issued 1,050 subpoenas to the administration; from 2001 to 2006, when the committee was in Republican hands and a Republican was in the White House, the committee has not issued a single subpoena for the administration. Not one.

As a result of this almost criminal lack of oversight, the HUD Secretary has been able to create a political fiefdom within his agency and the FDA's prescription drug approval process has essentially fallen apart. These tangible examples of the consequences of Republican control of Congress might not make for the sexiest campaign literature or ads, yet they do provide further proof of why change is needed this fall.

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