Report Highlights Coverage Of Prospects For FDA

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Summaries of several recent developments related to prospects for FDA and rule changes on health care issues in the new administration of President-elect Barack Obama appear below.

* FDA: Obama could seek to increase FDA oversight of imported foods and medications and expand the authority of the agency to regulate additional products, such as tobacco, the AP/Miami Herald reports. Obama campaign adviser Neera Tanden said that he will make food safety a priority for FDA. According to AP/Herald, Obama "is being urged to move quickly to appoint a FDA commissioner," and some possibilities include Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen; Susan Wood, former director of FDA's Office of Women's Health; and Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Miami Herald, 11/6). Nissen and Sharfstein "are among candidates being backed by consumer advocacy groups critical of the agency," and FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Director Janet Woodcock, a fourth possibility for agency commissioner, "is the top choice of drugmakers," Bloomberg reports (Blum, Bloomberg, 11/7).

* Rule changes: Congressional Democrats and their health care advisers have begun to prepare a list of executive orders, rules and regulations issued by the Bush administration that they hope Obama will overturn after he takes office, the Washington Post's "44" reports. According to the Post's "44," the "most obvious target is lifting federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research." Congressional Democrats also hope to overturn a policy directive issued last year by HHS that limits the ability of states to expand their SCHIP programs (Connolly, "44," Washington Post, 11/6).

Opinion Pieces

Summaries of several recent opinion pieces that addressed health care issues in the Obama administration appear below.

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* Paul Krugman, New York Times: "Right now, many commentators are urging Mr. Obama to think small" on his agenda in part because they maintain that the "financial and economic crisis leaves no room for action on, say, health care reform," but Obama should have the "good sense to ignore this advice," Times columnist Krugman writes. According to Krugman, "standard textbook economics says that it's OK, in fact appropriate, to run temporary deficits in the face of a depressed economy," and "one or two years of red ink, while it would add modestly to future federal interest expenses, shouldn't stand in the way of a health care plan that, even if quickly enacted into law, probably wouldn't take effect until 2011."

He adds, "Helping the neediest in a time of crisis, through expanded health and unemployment benefits, is the morally right thing to do; it's also a far more effective form of economic stimulus than cutting the capital gains tax." A "serious progressive agenda -- call it a new New Deal -- isn't just economically possible, it's exactly what the economy needs," Krugman writes, adding, "The bottom line, then, is that Barack Obama shouldn't listen to the people trying to scare him into being a do-nothing president" (Krugman, New York Times, 11/7).

* Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Philadelphia Inquirer: The question of whether Obama will "be led to the left by Congress" on health care and other issues or "will ... lead in a more moderate direction" remains unanswered, Santorum writes in an Inquirer opinion piece. Santorum writes, "If he is led, our economy will struggle under greater taxes on investors and higher-income workers," federal "domestic spending would explode" and employees of "small businesses would get Medicaid-like government health insurance, paid for by taxing their employers." In addition, if Obama is led by Congress, he would "require businesses to provide paid family medical leave," and embryonic stem cell research would "get federal funding, as would cloning of human beings for research purposes," Santorum writes (Santorum, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/6).

* Bret Swanson, Wall Street Journal: "If Barack Obama ran for president by calling for a heavier hand of government, he also won by running one of the most entrepreneurial campaigns in history," but questions remain about whether Obama will "come to see that unleashing the entrepreneur is the best way to raise the revenue he needs for his lofty priorities," such as health care, Swanson, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Global Innovation at the Progress & Freedom Foundation, writes in a Journal opinion piece.

He writes, "We are not going to 'solve' the entitlements crisis by gouging American producers to pay for the current Medicare/Medicaid abomination," adding, "Much better to transcend the issue with medical innovations and an entrepreneurial, consumer-driven market where more physicians go into medical technology, more nurses replace doctors, more technologies replace doctor visits, and with properly-aligned incentives and real prices, more citizens take better care of their own health and thus their pocket books." According to Swanson, the "only way to escape current predictions of scarcity is the unforeseen abundance that entrepreneurship can bring" (Swanson, Wall Street Journal, 11/7).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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