"Let's blame Canada"

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"Let's blame Canada"

Postby Kevin » Mon Aug 23, 2004 4:35 pm

Nature editorial
Nature 430, 815 (19 August 2004); doi:10.1038/430815b

Let's blame Canada

"Americans should worry less about their neighbour and more about the prestige of regulators who protect public health."

"Lester Crawford, acting commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is worried that the importation of cheap pharmaceuticals could expose Americans to attack from bioterrorists. In an interview with the Associated Press on 11 August, he raised the potential contamination of imported drugs as a threat to national security.

"In practice, the imports come mainly from Canada, where drugs are subject to government price controls. They are increasingly sanctioned by state governments in the United States, where citizens are tiring of paying inflated prices for medicines. The Bush administration — taking its cue from US drug companies — would like to close the door to such imports.

"As that acclaimed documentary the South Park movie demonstrated, the United States' paranoia about its threatening northern neighbour is richly justified. But Canadian perfidy must not blind Americans to a starker domestic threat: the degeneration of once-prestigious federal agencies, such as the FDA, into political poodles.

"The FDA has an inspiring history. Its record of stalwart independence is one of the reasons Americans have such high confidence in the safety of both their pharmaceuticals and their food supply. Only a few years ago, for example, FDA commissioner David Kessler launched an audacious effort to regulate tobacco as a drug. Congress opposed the move and Kessler received little support from his bosses in the Clinton administration. But his stand, for a while, had 'big tobacco' shaking in its boots.

"Today, the chances of such an initiative originating within the FDA itself are slight — not much larger than the chances of someone choosing to terrorize the US public by contaminating a shipment of drugs before their export from Canada. It is scandalous that the FDA's leadership seems ready to make politically motivated pronouncements that link two serious issues — drug pricing and bioterrorism — in a manner likely only to inflate public cynicism about both."

Copyright 2004 Nature Publishing Group
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Postby Richard Haut » Mon Aug 23, 2004 6:58 pm

What baffles me is why a man with Lester Crawford's background should behave as he has done.

What influence can be brought to bear on a man like this to - at a stroke - throw away the credibility of a lifetime's work ?

For us to read such comments in a journal of the status of "Nature" is serious - for Dr. Crawford it is far, far worse.

"As Acting Commissioner of the FDA, the nation’s principal consumer protection agency, Dr. Crawford ensures the safety and protection of the public’s health. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has said, “Lester Crawford has devoted his career to promoting safer products for the public, and he brings to the FDA valuable experience and leadership skills. With his help, the FDA will continue to build on its successes in ensuring the safety of foods, drugs, and medical products for all Americans.”

Previously, Dr. Crawford was Chair of the Department of Physiology-Pharmacology at the University of Georgia, Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) and Deputy Commissioner of FDA. From 1997-2002, he was Director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Georgetown University and at Virginia Tech, where it moved in 2001.

Dr. Crawford has played major roles in mandatory nutrition labeling, the formation of the World Trade Organization and the control of chemical and microbiological contaminants of food. He has been an advisor to the World Health Organization of the United Nations for much of his career.

Dr. Crawford is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (UK) and a Fellow of the International Society of Food Science and Technology. In 1984, he was inducted into the French Academy of Veterinary Medicine. In 1991, he received the Wooldridge Award, the British Veterinary Association’s highest award.

Dr. Crawford received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Auburn University, his PhD in pharmacology from the University of Georgia, and his Honorary Doctorate (MDV) from Budapest University.

He has been married since 1963 to Catherine Walker of Birmingham, Alabama. They have two daughters, Leigh and Mary, and four grandchildren."
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