Monday, December 05, 2005

BARDA: tailor-made for another Brownie

I've posted about this before, but it makes me crazy, so here it is again. The idea expressed in the lede of this AP article is so stupid it says it all:
By creating a federal agency shielded from public scrutiny, some lawmakers think they can speed the development and testing of new drugs and vaccines needed to respond to a bioterrorist attack or super-flu pandemic. (AP via First Amendment Center)
The agency proposed in Republican (NC) Senator Richard Burr's bill (S. 1873) is the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, or BARDA. The bill exempts BARDA from open-records and open-meeting laws that apply to every other government agency and gives manufacturers liability protection in exchange for "their participation in the public-private effort."
“There is no other agency that I am aware of where the agency is totally exempt either from FOIA or FACA,” said Pete Weitzel, coordinator of the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government. The coalition is an alliance of journalism groups, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors and Associated Press Managing Editors, that wrote to lawmakers seeking amendments to the bill. “That is a cause for major concern and should raise major policy concerns,” Weitzel said.


Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, said the agency as proposed would represent a setback to decades of progress in opening up to the public the process of testing the safety and efficacy of drugs.

“These provisions are extremely dangerous,” Wolfe said. “The fact that they are being proposed, really exploiting people’s fears about pandemics and epidemics, is outrageous and goes backward on the progress on the use of the Freedom of Information Act and Federal Advisory Committee Act to increase public scrutiny and increase the correctness of decisions that are made.”
Frist is pushing the bill and like Burr, Lieberman and others, is using the (real) threat of a pandemic as a Trojan Horse to smuggle Big Pharma giveaways through congress. Overseen by the new Brownie.

What a bunch of jerks.