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'Paging Dr. Gupta'; Merck, FDA Subject of Senate Scrutiny
Aired November 18, 2004 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Carol Costello has graced our presence here in the studio in New York City.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I like it when he says that.
HEMMER: What's going on?
How are you? Good morning.
COSTELLO: What's going on? It's funny you should ask, because I have it right here.
HEMMER: Go for it.
COSTELLO: Good morning, everyone.
Now the news, U.S. and Iraqi forces today discovered what appears to be a safehouse linked to terrorist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Military sources say they found two letters inside an empty house, one giving instructions to his lieutenants, the other asking for money and help. Symbols pledging loyalty to Osama bin Laden were also found in that house.
Talks on free trade and global security are under way this hour in Chile. Top ministers from more than 20 countries including the U.S., arrived overnight for the APEC Summit. In the meantime, protesters are taking to the streets. There are reports of some clashes with police. About 120 protesters have reportedly been detain and released. President Bush is set to attend the summit this weekend.
And new details the flu vaccine shortage to potentially have been avoided. An FDA report shows the agency knew about unsanitary conditions at a British flu vaccine plant last year. The plant wasn't reinspected until similar problems led to loss of half the U.S. supply of flu vaccine this year, but the acting FDA commissioner says there is no connection between the two.
And it is a star-studded event in Little Rock, Arkansas. The dedication ceremony for the Clinton presidential center is set to get under way this morning. President Bush will be among the guests on hand for the festivities. The building opens to the public tomorrow and, of course, CNN will have live coverage of the library's dedication ceremony, and that begins at Noon Eastern Time -- 30,000 people expected.
HEMMER: Wow. O'BRIEN: Bill Clinton knows how to throw a party.
O'BRIEN: One-hundred and sixty-five million bucks, you can throw a nice party for that.
COSTELLO: Exactly, a lot of people donated a lot of money.
Well, Merck, the makers of the arthritis drug Vioxx and the FDA will be the subject of Senate scrutiny today. Just what led to the Vioxx recall, and was patient safety ever compromised?
CNN's Chris Huntington is live on Capitol Hill this morning with a preview of today's committee hearing.
Good morning, Chris.
CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning.
Well, there have been serious concerns about the safety of Vioxx well before even the drug was launched, but senators want to find out today, is what did Merck and the FDA know about the dangers of Vioxx and when did they know it?
HUNTINGTON (voice-over): FDA scientist David Graham estimated in a study this summer that Vioxx caused nearly 28,000 severe heart attacks, many of them fatal, over a four-year period, but Graham tells CNN, and is expected to tell the Senate Finance Committee, that he was pressured to tone down those conclusions by the FDA. Committee chairman Chuck Grassley wants to know why Merck and the FDA didn't do more to protect the public from the dangers of Vioxx?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I'm very concerned about whether or not the Food and Drug Administration is doing the work they should be. The public is their clientele, and not the pharmaceutical companies.
HUNTINGTON: Grassley and other committee members will also grill Merck's CEO Ray Gilmartin, who is expected to continue defending his company and Vioxx.
RAY GILMARTIN, MERCK CEO: The FDA pointed out in their press release on the day we announced that we were voluntarily recalling the drug, that the risk for any one individual for a heart attack or stroke was very small.
HUNTINGTON: The FDA insists it did all it could on Vioxx and is sending the acting director of its Office of New Drugs to maintain that precision at the hearing. But Dr. Sidney Wolfe, whose worstpills.com Web site told patients to avoid Vioxx years ago, says the FDA and Merck did not warn more loudly on Vioxx because there was too much money at stake.
DR. SIDNEY WOLFE, PUBLIC CITIZEN HEALTH RESEARCH: The company didn't warn them, because they wanted to sell drugs, and the FDA didn't warn them because part of the problem for the FDA is they get paid directly by drug companies to do a lot of their business, and they don't want to offend drug companies.
HUNTINGTON: The FDA denied CNN's repeated request for interview regarding the money it receives from pharmaceutical companies. But since 1992, drugmakers have been legally required to pay the FDA to oversee new drugs and those already on the market. Vioxx plaintiff lawyers argue that was a conflict of interests.
ANDY BIRCHFIELD, VIOXX PLAINTIFF LAWYER: They were the lapdog for the industry and certainly not the watchdog for public safety that we need.
HUNTINGTON: Now, last night FDA acting commissioner Lester Crawford issued a lengthy statement, in part refuting the notion that FDA had ever suppressed any findings on Vioxx, and he went ton say that the FDA drug safety program is a system that is working -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Chris Huntington, on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Chris, thanks -- Bill.
HEMMER: Twenty minutes before the hour now.
Changing the rules for Republicans in the house, and John Kerry's extra campaign cash. Left on the table, two good topics for a political jab this morning. We find Republican strategist Joe Watkins in Philadelphia this morning.
Joe, good morning to you.
JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Good morning, Bill.
HEMMER: Also former Hillary Clinton Press Secretary Lisa Caputo is in Little Rock today for the dedication of Bill Clinton's library.
And, Lisa, welcome back, and good morning to you as well.
LISA CAPUTO, FMR. HILLARY CLINTON PRESS SECY.: Good morning, Bill.
HEMMER: Joe, I want to start with you. On the outside, Democrats are saying House Republicans are just trying to change the rules in midstream to protect one of their very own powerful members of the House. How can you refute that?
WATKINS: Well, I think it's pretty easy to do that. Now the rules on the Republican side look like the rules on the Democrat side. The Democrats, of course, have rules that don't force their leaders and top committee people to step down in the event of a felony indictment and now the Republicans have rules that say the same thing. And it means we won't be hijacked by any politically motivated D.A.'s that might want to hold the House leader, Republican House leaders, hostage.
HEMMER: Does this also indicate, Joe, that there will be an indictment handed down for Tom DeLay?
WATKINS: No, not necessarily at all, not necessarily at all. This is not to say that there will be an indictment, although some people associated with him have been indicted, but certainly this is a preemptive strike on the part of Republicans.
HEMMER: I want to get to Lisa on this. Republicans are saying this -- they're saying that this is a Democratic prosecutor back in the state of Texas who's out to get any Republican, be it Tom DeLay or anyone else. Your response to that issue?
CAPUTO: You know, we had seven years and $70 million with Ken Starr. It that wasn't a witch hunt, I don't know what was. Bill, this is a situation, though, if people want to make the comparison with the Clintons and the whole Whitewater investigation with the investigation of Tom Delay, people, three people around Tom Delay, have been indicted. Delay is under investigation for indictment. For the Republicans to change the rules just to take care of their own, I find quite amazing, particularly when Delay was pounding the gavel on the floor about, calling for Clinton to step down. I mean, this is -- it's hypocrisy at its finest.
HEMMER: Joe, what Lisa's saying is though that what goes around comes around. In this case it's coming back around?
WATKINS: Well, no, I don't think so. I think some Democrats would like for there to be payback, but clearly this is about making sure the rules are -- that there's parity in the rules. The Democrats, again, the Democrats' rules don't require their House leaders to step down in the event of a felony indictment, and now Republican rules say the same thing.
HEMMER: Well, but the Republicans changed the rules in midstream.
WATKINS: No, no, no, absolutely not. There's still going to be a 30-day review of those leaders. But what it means is that now that this Democratic D.A. down in Texas can't hold the House leader on the Republican side hostage.
CAPUTO: Yes, but, Joe, with all due respect, I mean, the rules weren't changed in the middle of the Whitewater investigation. Now that one of the Republicans...
HEMMER: Hang on, Joe. Lisa, finish your point; we're going to move on. CAPUTO: All I'm saying, now that one of the Republicans own is coming under investigation and an indictment is feared. Now I don't see how that's right.
HEMMER: Next topic here. The story that was in "USA Today" yesterday, Lisa, that show John Kerry left $15 million on the table. It was not spent for the campaign. How did Democrats respond to that possibility, knowing that this election in many cases was extremely close? Maybe not for the White House, with 3.5 million votes going to George Bush, but some of these races in Democratic corners across the country?
CAPUTO: You know, it's interesting, Bill, this was quite the talk last night in Little Rock as people reception hopped and party hopped. I mean, I think, you know, a lot of people are questioning and -- whether or not John Kerry is going to seek the presidency again in four years. Certainly with cash on hand like that, it puts him in an enviable position to have a leg up certainly on the field. But don't forget, a lot of this chatter happened back in 2000 after Gore lost to the president, President Bush. And so, I think that it's fair to say there's a lot of questioning going on, it's early. But a lot of people are starting to speculate that indeed Kerry has an intention to run again in four years.
HEMMER: But should he give that money back? Donna Brazille, who may lead the DNC? We'll see what the leadership unfolds there for her. Should he give that money back or not, Lisa?
CAPUTO: You know, I think it's to be determined. Let's see, you know, how things shake down. I think there's probably an argument to give it back it to the Democratic National Committee. Certainly if it was raised through the committee, through that channel, there's certainly reason to believe that it should be given back to the party once there's a new chairman put in place.
HEMMER: All right, we got to run. Thanks, Lisa, Lisa Caputo there at the library in Little Rock and Joe Watkins in Philly. Thank you, Joe.
O'BRIEN: A children's watchdog group overseeing the design and safety of toys has released its annual list of the playthings that it calls the worst on the market. The group is called WATCH, which stands for World Against Toys Causing Harm. And WATCH says beware of the Happy Birthday Bear, the Fun Slides Carpet Skates, Imiginarium Police Car Building Blocks, The Megabuster Battle Weapon, the Dress Me Paz Penguin, and the Parents Magazine Mirror Pound-A-Ball. The list also includes the Pocket Rocket Miniature Motorcycle, Air Burst Rockets, the 38-inch Playtime Trampoline, and the Uzi-1 Commando Machine Gun.
The toy industry, though, shot back by saying this -- quote: "Toys produced and sold in the U.S. are the most highly regulated and monitored in the world. The U.S. toy safety standards serve as a model around the globe." So a little bit of a fight going on there. HEMMER: Get a break here. In a moment, Andy's "Minding Your Business." He's got the car of the year. I'll talk about it after this.
O'BRIEN: Also this morning, Condoleezza Rice is having surgery tomorrow for the most common form of tumors in women. The problem is, for lots of women, they don't even know they have it. We're going to "Page Dr. Gupta" to learn about the symptoms, just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: Condoleezza Rice, the president's choice to be the next secretary of state, will have minor surgery tomorrow at a Washington hospital. Dr. Sanjay is at the CNN Center this morning to tell us a little bit about the procedure she'll undergo.
Hey, Sanjay, good morning.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
We're talking about uterine fibroids here. They're one of the most common tumors in women. They're not cancerous. They're typically not dangerous. And about three quarters of women have them and don't even know it. So you can get a sense of how little impact they may have, but sometimes they can cause some pretty significant symptoms. Some of the symptoms that women have, if they develop big or large uterine fibroid, heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods, pelvic pressure or pain. They can have incontinence or urination problems, constipation, back ache, leg pains, all those things there.
Take a look at what they really are. What they really are, are sort of tumors within the uterus themselves. Sometimes little tumors develop on the side the uterine wall. As you can see here, that is the uterine muscle on the right. Those are the actual fibroids that develop. Sometimes they can actually interfere with the fallopian tubes, and that might cause infertility, but that's not that common either.
A generation ago, Soledad, the most common treatment for this sort of thing was to actually remove the whole uterus. Things have come a long way. Condoleezza Rice is actually going to have something known as uterine artery embolization. Big name. Basically all it means, is that some particles are put into the arteries that supply those tumors, and with time, those tumors actually shrink away and die. You can see there, a small particle is injected, the blood vessels are blocked, and the fibroids starve, and they die after some time.
O'BRIEN: Sanjay, we're told this is minor surgery, also that they'll be no anesthesia, really emphasizing that it's not a big deal. Is this essentially an outpatient procedure? She goes in on Friday, she's goes home after the procedure?
GUPTA: Yes, typically people can either, you know, stay one night, or may even go home the same day. We learned that she's actually going home the next day, on Saturday. She'll probably have to take it easy over the weekend. But hearing that she'll be back to work on Monday.
One thing about this particular procedure, because the uterine artery embolization doesn't actually get rid of the fibroids right away, she'll have to undergo a series ultrasounds over the next period of several months, maybe even a year, to make sure those fibroids are actually shrinking away and dying. But besides that, she should be fine.
One thing I should mention as well, is because the arteries are blocked, sometimes a woman who's not in menopause yet might be put into early menopause by this procedure. Unclear if that will happen in this case, but those are the things she has to look out for -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: So a good prognosis and a pretty easy recovery for her. That's good news. Glad to hear that.
All right, Sanjay, thanks.
GUPTA: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.
Still to come this morning, if you're looking for a new car, wait for Andy before you buy. He's got the car of the year to tell you about.
Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.
HEMMER: Welcome back, everybody. Going to need a preview of market action, about 40 minutes away from the opening bell.
Also, one major airline, also, cutting back on perks to save money and time, and we've heard that time and time again.
Back to Andy Serwer, "Minding Your Business."
ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Yes, this isn't really a perk. This has got me little steamed. I'm going to talk about this in a second.
Let's talk about the market, first of all. A good day for Wall Street. Dow is up 62 points. Applause all around for the Sears/Kmart deal. You see that. Nasdaq, S&P up as well. All those stocks are up, and futures are mixed this morning. Google may be under a little pressure this morning, because it announced growth was slowing, and that stock is down in pre-market trading.
Car of the year, no contest, the Chrysler 3000. "Motor Trend" just came out. This is a sweet ride. It is -- they call it the baby Bentley. And you know, they sold 82,000 of these things in the past year, no contest. The Chrysler 300. Excuse me, not the 3000.
HEMMER: We added a zero, edged it up just a little bit.
SERWER: That's Right. It goes for $23,000 to $38,000, if you the get the Hemi V-8.
HEMMER: Now what has you all steamed?
SERWER: What's got me steamed is American Airlines. Guess what they've decided to do? The nation's largest carrier, they decided get rid of the pillows in half their planes, the pillows, because it will save them money not to have pillows on the planes. Here's what they say. It helps because it will help the workers clean up planes faster, reduce the time for aircraft sitting at the gates and increase productivity.
Yes, but what about my neck? What about the customers here? They say they're going to save $300,000 doing this. And you remember a couple months ago, I was kidding about ways the airlines are saving money? They're going to have a deplaning fee? You know, maybe that's next. This is just crazy.
O'BRIEN: You know, those pillows, who cleans them in between the flights? Nobody. So you don't want to use the pillows.
SERWER: Well, maybe they're not so sanitary, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Good thing then. Right, see? Thinking of you.
SERWER: Good point.
TOURE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The whole deplaning thing always bugs me. It's not a word, people!
SERWER: You are a linguist, but...
TOURE: No, but that is a word.
SERWER: Oh, OK.
TOURE: I define what is and is not a word.
O'BRIEN: Time for the "Toure Experience" -- file shmile!
TOURE: That's right, and we're going to have fun today. We all know that nature abhors a vacuum, and so does television. Last February when "sex and the City" walked off into the sunset, it was like losing four friends. Well...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: So far, I've only had one. Trey, how many great loves have you had?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Zero.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Really? What about Steve?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Steve's a friend, not a core shaker.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Well, I'm done with great love. I'm back to great lovers.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I refuse to define love in those limited terms.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I have to!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TOURE: And then along came the "Desperate Housewives." Now I like to watch "Desperate Housewives" as if it were an extension of "Sex and the City," as in, this is what became of Carrie and the girls. They got married, moved to the suburbs and found out that having a great husband in a perfect white picket fence ain't all it's cracked up to be. The subtext of "Sex and the City" was hope, that that whole some day my prince will come thing. "Desperate Housewives" is all post-hope. The narrator is speaking from beyond the grave, people! It's an unhappily ever after story. The girls scavenging for scraps of sexual happiness like a squirrel after a nut.
Imagine if the two forces could meet for lunch one day? I could see Carrie talking about how excited she is to finally marry Mr. Big, while Gabriel says, don't bother, girl, stay single. The promiscuity on "Sex and the City" had this whole feministic, liberating edge to it, while the "Desperate Housewives" views sex as a weapon, to keep from getting victimized by their lame hubbies, and that heightens the stakes. The whole thing is both shows take you inside women's circles, make you feel like one the girls, and that's why we've got new friends on Sunday night.
O'BRIEN: I'm depressed suddenly about being a woman!
SERWER: Could you deconstruct our show and talk about the sexual politics going on here maybe?
O'BRIEN: Oh, yes, that's tomorrow. We're going to do that tomorrow.
HEMMER: You do have a first name. It's doctor!
SERWER: Oh, yes.
HEMMER: The shrink has arrived.
Terrell Owens may disagree with that whole...
HEMMER: Well, you have something to think about.
Thanks, Toure. You got anything you want to add here, Andy?
O'BRIEN: All right. Moving on. Thanks, Toure.
And coming up in just a moment, today's top stories, including the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library. Senator Hillary Clinton tells us what she thinks about her husband's new museum. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.
HEMMER: Here's a quick reminder. Get the latest news every morning in our e-mail. Sign up for AMERICAN MORNING, quicknews@CNN.com/am. Also in a moment here, how big is the nuclear threat from Iran? Some serious charges being leveled at Tehran again today, live to the White House with the latest on that story as we continue, top of the hour in a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING.
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