Smoking in Bed
As many will know, Congress passed a bill today that would enable the FDA to regulate tobacco for the first time. The New York Times has the story at:
What is of wider interest here are the political alliances between the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries in recent years, as profoundly different have been their contributions to the public good. Still, their champions--especially regarding limiting regulation and liability--have been many of the same people and organizations. Likewise, the two industries joined in funding the "think tanks" that fostered the ideologies of deregulation and preemption that have been so prominent a part of contemporary policy debates.
Dan Troy is, of course, the most famous. A year before he became FDA Chief Counsel, he successfully argued in the Supreme Court against FDA regulation of tobacco. That is the legacy which Congress is now working to reverse.
The Washington Legal Foundation, which took point in the deregulatory movement in the mid-90s, was also a shared creation of tobacco, pharma, and hard right family foundations. During the '90s, for example, when Republicans under Gingrich worked to disssolve the post-thalidomide FDA (Kefauver-Harris amendments), the WLF published a series of full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, trumpeting what was described as the near genocidal impact of FDA regulation. More recently, the WLF is known for its fight against regulation of off-label promotion. Indeed, Wiley Rein--the same firm that represented Wyeth in the Levine preemption case--was centrally responsible for the "liberalizing" of off-label drug promotion in a 2000 case (http://www.wileyrein.com/news_release.cfm?press_release_id=2173) The links between the WLF and both pharma and tobacco (especially tobacco) are summarized at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Washington_Legal_Foundation
Many believe that the rage against FDA in the '90s, and against Commssioner David Kessler in particular, was fueled above all by Kessler's attempts then to regulate tobacco.
Today, many in pharma are shocked by the fact that public opinion polls rank the industry close to big tobacco in overall approval ratings. In my view, that shock is well-founded. But the connection has a specific political history of shared alliances and agenda. It does not emerge from nowhere.