The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight convened a hearing May 8th to address Direct to Consumer (DTC) drug advertising by Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Merck Schering-Plough. C3 first raised questions in summer 2007 about Procrit® DTC advertising that ran from 1998 to 2005. Procrit is an anemia drug sold by Ortho Biotech, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson.
In a letter written to Congress, Andrew Von Eschenbach, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Chief, admits the agency needs an immediate infusion of $275 million.
Von Eschenbach’s request was made to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a letter.
Presidential appointees rarely diverge so forcefully from the President’s own spending plans, or at least avoid doing so in writing. Dr. von Eschenbach’s action surprised agency observers and was taken as perhaps a sign of the President’s waning influence in the closing months of his presidency (The New York Times, May 14, 2008).
Earlier this year, President Bush requested Congress to appropriate $1.77 billion to the FDA in FY 09. This includes an increase of $50.7 million over FY 08. This increase is not even enough to cover salary increases at the agency.
The FDA has been plagued with criticism for approving contaminated food and drugs and just recently came under attack for not properly policing the Direct to Consumer Advertisements used by pharmaceuticals companies.
Last week, Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) offered an amendment to the FY 08 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that would increase funding for the FDA by $275 million.
Advocates for increased food and drug oversight said they were thrilled with Dr. Von Eschenbach’s letter. “We are one step closer to an FDA that has the resources to serve the needs of American consumers,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (The New York Times, May 14, 2008).
C3 would like to thank Senator Herbert Kohl (D-WI) for his continued fight for increased funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Senator Kohl has assured that $275 million in additional funding for the FDA will be included in this year’s Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill.
“Senator Kohl continues to be FDA’s champion in the quest for additional funds. We are grateful for his leadership and fully support his efforts,” said Wayne Pines, President of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. “By placing additional funding in this year’s emergency supplemental bill, Senator Kohl has highlighted the size and urgency of FDA’s needs.”
The supplemental appropriations bill is primarily used to fund defense and the continued war effort. House and Senate leadership will now have to decide on how much of the final bill will fund domestic programs.