Representative Rehberg: Fighting for a Tainted Blood, Unsafe Drugs and Youth Smoking

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While I have often excoriated Representative Rehberg for a lack of courage—voting for and against the Patriot Act, for and against REAL ID, for and against defunding Medicare, for and against earmarks—I have to say that I have newfound respect for the man. It takes a special kind of courage to defend that which is indefensible, unsupportable, and unnecessary.

As more information becomes available about Rehberg’s amendment, it becomes even more clear that this was yet another example of the Representative shooting from the hip without considering the repercussions of a proposal designed to appeal to the anti-government crowd, like his ill-conceived amendment that would have defunded Medicare.

That, or he is actually willing to sacrifice the health of our children for the sake of special interests.

As The Hill blog reports, the FDA has serious concerns about Rehberg’s amendment, including that it would impact drug safety:

  • facilitate economically motivated adulteration of drugs, with potential fatal side effects.
  • prevent the FDA from issuing public health alerts about dangerous imported drugs.
  • prevent rapid recalls of dangerous/contaminated drugs.

The FDA’s assessment of the bill concludes that public health will be undermined:

If the Rehberg amendment becomes law, patients will be exposed to drugs that contain impurities of unknown toxicology and hazard until FDA can muster the “hard science” to restrict use and patient exposure. Patients and clinicians will assume a side effect is by the drug itself rather than some impurity and look for alternative drugs or treatment methods, raising costs and anxiety over drug use. Confidence in the safety and quality of drugs is a cornerstone of public health and the foundation of FDA’s drug regulatory system.

Along with decreasing the safety of pharmaceuticals, the Rehberg amendment will also decrease the safety of the blood supply:

the result will be public health uncertainty that could decrease blood safety and the
confidence of Americans and the medical community in the blood supply. This amendment will hamper FDA’s ability to act quickly and responsibly to address emerging blood safety threats.

Additionally, the bill will make it harder for the FDA to implement public health measures to reduce tobacco consumption by children:

This amendment would limit FDA’s ability to implement rules to improve public health even if the available facts, research and analysis clearly demonstrate that the rule would produce a
sharp net improvement to public health. Examples include rules designed to reduce the number of youth who begin tobacco use, prompting more existing tobacco users to quit, and either reducing or not increasing harms to ongoing tobacco users.

Those well-known radicals at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association argue that the Rehberg Amendment would harm children:

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year. The Rehberg amendment is a huge step backward and would turn the tobacco companies loose on our children again.
While this amendment is part of an appropriations bill, it does nothing to save taxpayers money or reduce the budget deficit. In fact, it likely would increase how much the government spends on tobacco-related health care costs under Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. It is purely and simply a giveaway to the tobacco industry that must be rejected by the full House.

As a final benefit for the health of children, the amendment will also make it more difficult to keep children from consuming candy tainted by lead.

Representative Rehberg needs to not only explain himself, but apologize for this proposal.

Note to the Montana media: That a federal agency and most of the major health organizations of the United States have called out our sole member of the House of Representatives by name, suggesting that his actions could jeopardize public health and safety is probably something you should cover. It might even be more important than reporting on another listening session.

Will you do your job and hold him accountable for his policies?

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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