Monthly Archives: September 2009

Ledger Editorial is a lesson for our politicians

Some food for thought for Trenton City politicians and those currently seeking office – please keep donor money and campaign contributions out of public decision-making:

Editorial

Star-Ledger

September 29, 2009

The curious case of the Food and Drug Administration, the knee implant and four New Jersey congressmen raises serious concerns about how politics can influence decisions that affect Americans’ health. It also raises hopes that the FDA is cleaning up its act.

The agency is taking a second look at its approval for Menaflex, a patch designed to replace torn cartilage in the knee. The FDA’s scientific reviewers had recommended against approving the device, based on studies showing it was prone to failure with the result that patients had to undergo more surgery.

Yet it was approved for the market in late 2008. How did that happen? The FDA, to its credit, is now looking into that.

Its preliminary investigation found FDA’s own processes at fault – some of the agency’s rules were confusing, and other times procedures simply weren’t followed.

But it also said unusual pressure was brought on the agency by Reps. Steve Rothman and Frank Pallone and Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, all New Jersey Democrats.

Fair enough, but the FDA report said the congressmen were involved in the process to a “highly unusual” degree. It noted their persistence and their interest in “specific, substantive aspects of the device’s review.” It said they spoke directly with then-commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, even trying to arrange a meeting with the commissioner, company officials and members of Congress all present – which would have violated FDA policy. The report stopped short of saying that political pressure was the most significant factor that got the device through the process.

Yes, the congressmen were responding to a constituent’s complaint of unfair treatment by a federal agency. It also happens to be a company whose executives gave a total of $28,000 in political contributions to the four politicians. Not every constituent has the wherewithal to contribute thousand of dollars and get special attention. Even when there isn’t a direct quid-pro-quo it has the aroma of pay-to-play.

Money has infected our politics for so long, there is the temptation to look away and say “So, what else is new?” But when it comes to a medical product which, if defective or inferior, may lead to more pain and expense for patients, there is no excuse for allowing politics to get in the way of scientific review.

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Quinnipiac: Corzine ad assault implodes, Christie lead grows to 10 points

Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s mudslinging, negative advertising blitz has apparently netted the former Goldman Sachs CEO a whole lot of nothing, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

The report found that the incumbent governor now trails Republican opponent Chris Christie 47 percent to 37 percent among likely voters, with 9 percent supporting independent candidate Chris Daggett. These poll numbers, released today, represent a change from the Connecticut university’s last poll, which found Mr. Christie leading Gov. Corzine 46 percent to 40 percent among likely voters on Aug. 11.

The swing towards Mr. Christie comes in the wake of weeks of negative attacks ads from the Corzine campaign, mainly targeting Mr. Christie for his relationship with former President George W. Bush, as well as for alleged ethical miscues such as neglecting to report a $46,000 loan to a U.S. Attorney’s office associate on state disclosure forms, and for racking up dozens of traffic tickets.

But the results of the ad campaign are clearly mixed, at best, according to Quinnipiac.

Out of the 77 percent of New Jersey likely voters who have seen ads criticizing Christie for his ties to former President George W. Bush, 56 percent say the ads are unfair, while only 36 percent say they are a legitimate campaign issue.

“Just about everyone has seen Gov. Jon Corzine’s TV ads knocking Christopher Christie’s ties to the Bush team, but most question whether it’s a legitimate issue. ‘Unfair,’ they say,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement.

A recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll had better news for Gov. Corzine, with Mr. Christie leading by only five points, although that spread is about the same as another FDU poll from a few weeks ago.

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