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Death Toll Due to Tainted Heparin in US Rises to 81.

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Federal officials in the US now say that the death toll due to adverse reactions to contaminated heparin coming from China has risen to 81, whereas Chinese officials dispute that any deaths were caused by the contaminant. In a tit-for-tat finger-pointing exercise, officials from both countries insist that they be allowed to inspect the manufacturing plants in the other country.

Currently, the US does not have an agreement with the Chinese government to allow inspection of Chinese food and drug manufacturing facilities. Chinese officials insist that this would only be allowed if Chinese officials were granted the reciprocal right to inspect all US food and drug manufacturing plants.

According to the NY Times, however, based on the current funding and staffing levels, the F.D.A. would take 27 years to inspect every foreign medical device plant that exports to the United States, 13 years to inspect every foreign drug manufacturing plant, and 1,900 years to examine every foreign food processing plant.

Congressman John Dingell, Democrat from Michigan, is calling for increased funding for the FDA, but has met resistance from the Bush administration which does not think that significantly increased funding is necessary. Funding for agencies that are actually tasked with protecting American lives, such as the FDA and the USDA, is not considered as important by the Bush administration as funding the military, supposedly to protect the American public from terrorism.

According to the FDA’s website, the FDA is requesting $2.4 billion for fiscal year 2009 to protect America's food and drug supply. This is approximately the same amount of money that the US government spends on the Iraq war every week. This puts Iraq war funding at approximately 50 times greater than the government's attempt to make sure the food you eat and the drugs you are given at the hospital are safe.

Clearly, as US citizens, we are not getting the types of protections we need from our government, and that we pay for with our taxes. The war in Iraq is costing American lives, not protecting them. Taking a single week’s worth of funding from the Iraqi budget and putting it into the FDA budget would double the FDA budget overnight. But as long as the Bush administration has any say in the matter, that will not happen.

Write your senators and congressional representative and ask them to support increased funding for the FDA. That money could easily be pulled from the Iraqi war budget if troop levels were dropped significantly. When the Bush administration tells you they are protecting you from terrorists, don't believe them. More people have died from tainted heparin in the last several months in the US (81) than have died from terrorism in the US in the last six years (0).
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John R. Moffett PhD is a research neuroscientist in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Moffett's main area of research focuses on the brain metabolite N-acetylaspartate, and an associated genetic disorder known as Canavan disease.

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