Monday, November 10, 2008

Change has come...??? True for Pet Food?

Nobody can say I didn’t try. Trying to keep politics out of this blog as much as possible is not so easy. This business evolves a lot around governmental institutions such as food regulating agencies. But that’s not what I am talking about here, I mean big time Washington politics. I just can’t help it, there is no way around it anymore. Especially not since Susan Thixton brought to my attention, that with a new president automatically comes along a new head of the FDA. According to her, there are rumors out there as to who that may be, but as she stresses, more importantly, what actually is going to change?
Susan through Bloomberg found out that Janet Woodcock, “a 22 year insider at the Food and Drug Administration is the top choice of drug makers who are lobbying for her to be named the agency's chief by President-elect Barack Obama, according to people associated with the industry.” The article continues “Representatives of drug makers are advocating to lawmakers that Woodcock, 60, be chosen to serve as commissioner on either an acting or permanent basis, according to two people associated with the industry who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a drug makers' trade association in Washington declined to discuss individual candidates.”
Susan says, the Bloomberg article shares that consumer advocacy groups are supporting cardiologist Steven Nissen and Baltimore City’s health commissioner, Joshua Sharfstein. “Both doctors have pressed the FDA for changes on drug safety.”
Susan researched cardiologist Steven Nissen and found “reveals a history of Dr. Nissen standing up to the FDA when science has proven them neglectful. A 2005 article on refers to Dr. Nissen as a ‘whistle blower’. “In 2001 he was the first physician to link Vioxx (rofecoxib) to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Three years later Merck pulled Vioxx from the market when additional studies confirmed that daily, long term use of the drug could increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.” also reports that in 2005, after the FDA approved the diabetes drug Pargluva, Dr. Nissen’s research proved the drug was risky and “Bristol-Myers Squibb announced that it would terminate its Pargluva development agreement with Merck. Bristol-Myers Squibb”.
The Wall Street Journal has its own take and on 11/05/08 came up with its own list of possible candidates for the job available:
“FDA Commissioner: Would-be FDA reformer Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who is advising Obama folks, wants an end to the “cozy” (Sen. Chuck Grassley’s word) relationship between FDA and industry. Big Pharma would go to the mat to stop Nissen, but he has plenty of cred on Capitol Hill after raising alarms about drugs, including GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia, J&J’s Natrecor, and Pargluva, a diabetes medicine that Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb failed to bring to market.
Mike Taylor, former Deputy FDA Commissioner under Clinton, is well-liked by members of both parties but still gets knocked for the agency’s approval of a genetically engineered hormone called bST to boost milk production in cows on his watch.
Cardiologist Robert Califf of Duke, a Democrat, is OK with both sides of the aisle, but has ties to industry that could raise flags.
Mary Pendergast, was up for Commish after Bush the Elder’s appointee David Kessler left. She is admired by Sen. Ted Kennedy and his influential staffers. She’s an industry consultant, but not an industry groupie. She’s on the board at biotech Nuvelo and was EVP at Irish drug maker Elan. A drawback for her candidacy is that she is a lawyer–not a doc.
Industry’s favorite may be Janet Woodcock, head of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Her backers have been pushing talking points to the media that she would be acceptable to both parties. But Woodcock’s been involved in some FDA controversies and drug problems that blew up in the House and Senate, including delays of the Plan B morning-after birth control pill, which infuriated Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray and others on the Senate committee that will approve the new Commish. That could make for a difficult hearing.
One other thing we had to pass along is rumbling that about a move to take the ‘F’ out of FDA by switching food regulation to the Agriculture Department’s inspections unit, creating a 24/7 food agency.”
As we can clearly see, nobody really has pet food on the top of his lists, it is all more about people’s drugs, less the food and pet food isn’t mentioned by anybody.
Susan’s conclusion is: “The existing FDA has more than proven it cannot properly protect pet owners and their pets. The new commissioner of the FDA must be confirmed by the Senate; every concerned US citizens should pay close attention to who is appointed.” She also asks pet owners to let their Senator know if they approve or disapprove of the new appointment.
If you ask me, here is my take: President elect Obama certainly has plenty of very pressing issues on hand and to take care off immediately. They include as we all know our ill economy, the wars we are involved in, bad guys threatening our country, foreign politics, health care and much more. I am quite sure that pet food and the regulation of it is one of his least worries. This, while it’s bothersome and I would like to see the facts different, is in my opinion completely understandable. Therefore I believe that there are not going to be too many changes, whether positive or negative in the short term future.
There is however a small spark of hope. Obviously one couldn’t miss the fact that to the media there were a few things extremely important this week: First the historic importance of last Tuesday’s outcome. Second the expectations raised in the new man in charge, wondering how he now, after all the election talk is over, really is going to tackle the problems we are facing. Third, Michelle Obama’s wardrobe. And finally, and this is where my spark of hope comes in: The fact that he promised his daughters a puppy in the event he wins the elections. As we all know he made it very clear in his very first speech as President elect, that he will live up to his promises at least on this part. And now the media is wondering what kind of puppy is going to move into the White House in January. So much that sometimes I am wondering what’s more important to the media, world and domestic big time politics or the Obama’s new companion animal. I recall my local paper for the last 4 days having every day a full page just on that topic. My point is: If the new President indeed never had a puppy, then consequentially he doesn’t know too much about feeding it either. This is “yet”. If everything I read and heard about him is true, which seems to be the case, he is a man who thoroughly studies the issues coming up in his life. That in my mind means he is going to learn about the problems we have been and still are facing as pet owners related to feeding our animals. And maybe that makes him take a closer look as to what has to be done and what must change. Change, after all is what he promised us. So I don’t quite give up hope yet.

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