Friday, August 03, 2007

Rep. Waxman Releases Drafts Of Global Health Report Reportedly Blocked By Bush Administration Official

Medical News Today
Rep. Waxman Releases Drafts Of Global Health Report Reportedly Blocked By Bush Administration Official

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Monday released two different drafts of a 2006 surgeon general report on global health that reportedly was withheld from the public by a Bush administration political appointee, the Los Angeles Times reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 7/31). Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who commissioned the report while serving in the position from 2002 to 2006, at a July 10 House committee hearing testified that the report was suppressed. Carmona told lawmakers that as he attempted to release the report, he was "called in and again admonished ... via a senior official," who said the report "will be a political document, or it will not be released." HHS' Office of Global Health Affairs head William Steiger, who according to newspaper reports blocked the report from being released, said he disagreed with Carmona's statements regarding the report (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/30).

Waxman on Monday released both Carmona's draft and the HHS outline of the report. According to the Times, the differences between the two versions have "added fuel to the controversy over whether the Bush administration has politicized science and medicine," as well as placed "political and ideological messages ahead of scientific information." The Times reports that the HHS outline included "praise" for "President Bush's initiative against AIDS in poor countries" and U.S. initiatives to improve public health in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Carmona's report included condoms as an effective way to prevent HIV transmission, "decried global pollution and violence against women."

HHS spokesperson Bill Hall said the report was not released because a review raised "strong concerns (from) multiple agencies." Waxman, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said that information from the HHS outline was inaccurate, according to the Times. For example, it highlighted microbicides "near final development" that women could use to protect themselves from HIV. Waxman in a letter to HHS said that this information is misleading because no "microbicide has been approved for reducing HIV infection." He added that an "international microbicide development organization predicts five to seven years until a product is available."

Carmona on Monday would not comment on the situation but said that he is willing to testify again before Congress if asked (Los Angeles Times, 7/31). Hall said that Steiger's outline was meant to serve as guidance for Carmona while he drafted the report (Lee, Washington Post, 7/31).

The two versions of the report and Waxman's letter to HHS are available online.