Sharing the Spotlight with Schumer

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  • 01/17/2006

One DC truism is that the most dangerous place to be in Washington is between Senator Charles Schumer and a camera. With that as our point of departure, this news item:

Senator Charles Schumer has sent a letter to federal officials calling for more oversight of the tissue transplant industry and for a full accounting of how possibly tainted tissue may have ended up being used in patients. The New York Democrat said in a letter to the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, that he was “deeply disturbed” by reports of a Brooklyn funeral home selling body parts without proper consent to a New Jersey firm, Biomedical Tissue Services, which then sold it to five other tissue banks. “There are so many unanswered questions,” Schumer said yesterday. “We’re turning the heat up on the specific cases and on how the industry is regulated. I would like the FDA to provide a full accounting of where the breakdown in the system occurred in each of these cases.”

Followed, of course, by the unfortunately inevitable “no comment” from the FDA.

Why unfortunate? Because the FDA is already on these gravediggers (the FDA in October issued a letter recalling the tissue, saying it was improperly screened) and the right and appropriate comment would have been something like, “We aim to pursue these people with everything we’ve got” — or something to that effect. Because, truth be told, both FDA’s resources and authority are limited.

Mr. Schumer said he also wanted to see more FDA oversight of the estimated $1 billion tissue bank industry, which he said in the letter “is especially subject to impropriety due to the profitability of tissue trade.” Well, amen to that. Rather than allowing Senator Schumer to grab some quick headlines with an FDA-bashing story, the agency should applaud his call for greater resources and authority — and then ask him to make it happen.

I’m sure the senior Senator from New York wouldn’t mind sharing the spotlight.

Yeah, sure.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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