The Ethical Spectacle, April 1995,


Since 1970, 56 drugs have been put on the market in Germany, France and Britain which later had to be withdrawn because people became ill or died after using them. Only 9 of the 56 drugs were approved for sale in the United States.

Remember the European Thalidomide babies, born to mothers who had taken a sleeping pill during pregnancy, born without limbs or with flippers? Thalidomide was never approved for sale in the U.S.

All of the above is because of the Food and Drug Administration, which requires substantial testing of proposed drugs and medical devices before allowing their sale in the U.S.

Newt Gingrich is a sworn enemy of the FDA, and sometime this year the Contract Republicans can be expected to try to dismantle it or prune it back. Though critics have long accused the FDA of blocking new drugs with too much red tape and bureaucracy, the conservative interests targeting the FDA today aren't looking to improve the way it works--they want to eliminate it. Mr. Gingrich called the agency "the leading job-killer in America."

The Competitive Enterprise Institute wants to allow all drugs and medical devices to be marketed without any governmental restrictions.

Citizens for a Sound Economy wants the pharmaceutical industry to regulate itself.

The pharmaceutical companies don't all agree. Spokesmen for Merck & Company and the Food and Drug Law Institute, an industry group, were quoted in the February 12 New York Times cautioning against the FDA's destruction-- "throwing out the baby with the bathwater," one said.

As I mentioned in a prior article, Mr. Gingrich has received campaign contributions from donors interested in eliminating the FDA--the Progress and Freedom Foundation, which supports his college course, is in its turn supported by half a dozen donors that do business with the agency, and Mr. Gingrich has intervened with the FDA on behalf of two of them. In that piece, I quoted the following:

Mr. Eisenach, a member of Mr. Gingrich's inner circle, said he had no qualms about accepting donations from drug companies and others with a financial stake in the debate over regulation.

According to an article in The Nation for February 27, the contributors to the Progress and Freedom Foundation for whom Mr. Gingrich intervened with the FDA were Solvay Pharmaceuticals ($30,000.00) and Direct Access Diagnostics (amount not specified). Last July, Mr. Gingrich wrote a letter to the FDA Commissioner asking why approval of a Solvay drug had been delayed two and a half years. He also wrote to White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta asking for approval of Direct Access' home AIDS test.

I work in the software industry, where we excoriate companies that arrogantly force their paying customers to double as beta testers. Yet the worst that can happen when their software malfunctions is that it will crash your computer system. Untested drugs and medical devices could crash your body. I want the FDA around-- don't you?

Please express your opinion by writing to Mr. Gingrich at