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For Immediate Release
June 23, 2004
Washington - The House Appropriations Committee today adopted language written by U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey (NY-22) expressing concern over an apparently dishonest response from the Food and Drug Administration to a question Hinchey posed at a hearing. The measure was included in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2005.
"At a hearing with the FDA Commissioner, I raised questions about a conflict of interest involving the FDA's Chief Counsel," said Hinchey, a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. "The FDA's response to my question intentionally omitted critical information in order to hide a potentially inappropriate commercial relationship. For our committee to fulfill its oversight responsibility, we need to be able to trust the answers given to us by the agencies. The language I added to the bill was needed to put the FDA on notice that such behavior will not be tolerated."
At a subcommittee hearing earlier this year, Hinchey questioned FDA Acting Commissioner Lester Crawford about the relationship between the agency's Chief Counsel and the drug company Pfizer. Hinchey has raised concerns about the FDA's general counsel office weighing in on civil suits in support of drug companies. The FDA subsequently responded to Hinchey in writing, as required. In that response, the FDA stated that the Chief Counsel had "worked an average of less than 80 hours per year" for Pfizer during the three years immediately preceding his tenure at FDA. Hinchey later learned Pfizer had paid $415,000 for the Chief Counsel's services during that period, including $356,000 in 2001 alone.
"The agency hid information that belies its claim that the Chief Counsel had a 'minimal relationship' with Pfizer," Hinchey added. "This intentional deception is not acceptable."
The Agriculture Appropriation Subcommittee writes the spending bill that includes the FDA's discretionary funding allocation. As such, it has the responsibility to oversee the manner in which the agency expends its resources. 


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