Friday, February 29, 2008

Leavitt threatened with contempt citation

WASHINGTON - Republican lawmakers said they would support a contempt citation against President Bush's health secretary if he didn't provide information in an investigation into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, testifying at a House panel Thursday, said he would work to resolve the demand by the letter's stated deadline of today. The letter, requesting documents and interviews with certain FDA employees, was signed by top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as Republican Reps. Joe Barton of Texas and John Shimkus of Illinois.

The committee's oversight subcommittee is investigating whether FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach gave misleading testimony on Sanofi-Aventis SA's antibiotic Ketek during a committee hearing in March. Ketek has been linked to fatal side effects. In a Feb. 11 letter to the House panel, Leavitt, a former Utah governor, didn't comply with a subpoena requesting briefing papers used to prepare von Eschenbach for his testimony.

"We're going to respond and have discussions over the next few days," Leavitt said in an interview during a break in the hearing Thursday. "I feel optimistic."

Story continues below Lawmakers of both parties warned in their letter, dated Wednesday, that they would back a contempt citation against Leavitt unless he produced the briefing papers or allowed the lawmakers to see the documents and interview FDA staff.

Leavitt, in his Feb. 11 letter, cited a possible "chilling effect" as reason for withholding the documents, according to the committee's letter, distributed to the press at the hearing. This isn't a legitimate reason for ignoring the subpoena, the committee said in its written response.........

1 comment:

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