October 26, 2020

New Bill to Stop Political Influence in Health Decisions

Bill to Stop Political Influence in Health Decisions Introduced

The Science and Transparency Over Politics (STOP) Act was introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D. WA), Assistant Democratic Leader, and top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The STOP Act would create a task force of the Pandemic Response and Accountability Committee charged with managing a detailed investigation into any political interference with decisions made by scientific agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services in connection to the pandemic response.

“It is painfully clear that the Trump administration won’t stop the political interference which is threatening our response to this pandemic and putting lives in jeopardy on its own, so it is up to Congress to act. We need transparency and accountability from top to bottom, and we need it now—before it is too late to prevent more costly mistakes. Now is the time for every Republican who has said they trust the experts and believe we must follow the science to prove they meant it by supporting this legislation. You cannot be for science if you’re silent about political interference in our pandemic response,” said Senator Murray.

The New York Times reported that Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has banned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from signing any new rules regarding foods, medicines, medical devices, and other products, including vaccines without his approval. This new rule has some in the scientific community worried. Dr. Mark McClellan, former head of the FDA and Duke University’s health policy center, stated “We’re in the midst of a pandemic when trust in the public health agency is needed more than ever,” he said. “So, I’m not sure what is to be gained with a management change with respect to the FDA when they are doing such critical work.”

Murray cites the above example, along with nine other instances as reasoning for the STOP Act. The bill also directs the body to review initial, subsequent, and final drafts of scientific publications and communications to be investigated to evaluate changes made as a result of political interference. If the task force is challenged when obtaining information, it is instructed to notify Congress. The act is supported by 32 members of the senate and asks for $25,000,000 to be appropriated for FY2021 and FY2022.

Read the STOP Act here.