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Concerns Raised About Celebrex Safety; FDA's Safety Screening Questioned; Wall Street Responds to Drug Concerns; Interviews with Senators Chuck Grassley, Susan Collins

Aired December 17, 2004 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, another blockbuster drug bombshell. First it was Vioxx, now Celebrex. Researchers say Celebrex may sharply increase the risk of a heart attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're an individual with high risk for heart problems, that you should shy away from this class of agents.

DOBBS: Senator Chuck Grassley is investigating the pharmaceutical industry. He says it's time for a review of drug safety. He's our guest.

I'll also be talking with Dr. John Abramson, a Harvard Medical School professor who says Celebrex is not a wonder drug. It's simply the product of wonder marketing.

Securing America. President Bush signs the massive intelligence reform bill into law. But will America be any safer?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under this new law, our vast intelligence enterprise will become more unified, coordinated and effective.

DOBBS: Senator Susan Collins played a critical role in pushing the intelligence reform bill through Congress. I'll be talking with her about the bill and her criticism this week of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

And while the president and Congress refuse to secure our borders and tighten laws against illegal immigration, some communities are taking action on their own, because they have to. We'll have a special report.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for Friday, December 17. Here now for an hour of news, debate and opinion is Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening.

Tonight, a shocking new scare about the health risks of one of this country's most popular painkillers. The drug company Pfizer says a study of its Celebrex drug found that patients taking high doses have a much higher risk of heart attacks.

Celebrex is the same type of drug as Vioxx. Vioxx was withdrawn ten weeks ago because it may cause heart attacks and strokes.

We have three reports tonight. Christine Romans reports on the dangers of Celebrex. Lisa Sylvester reports on the FDA's failure to protect the American people. And Peter Viles reports on a drug industry in crisis.

We begin here in New York with Christine Romans -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Celebrex is America's most prescribed arthritis medicine. Twenty-seven million Americans, one in ten people at one time or another, have taken this drug.


ROMANS (voice-over): Celebrex is prescribed for arthritis, aches and pains, and menstrual cramps. And it may be deadly.

A National Cancer Institute study found people taking 480- and 480-miligram daily doses were 2.5 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Pfizer called the news unexpected and inconsistent with other studies and said it will not pull this drug from the market.

HANK MCKINNELL, CEO, PFIZER: Arthritis patients don't use these drugs at anything more than 100 to 200 milligrams, and they don't take them every day for three years.

ROMANS: Pfizer has taken advantage of Merck's recall of Vioxx, touting the safety of Celebrex.

In late November, the company said, "There are no significant cardiovascular concerns. November 4, "The safety profile of Celebrex is well established." September 30, "Pfizer is confident in the long- term, cardiovascular safety of Celebrex.

Now the safety of the whole class of drugs is being questioned.

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE, PUBLIC CITIZEN GROUP: People should not be using Vioxx, which they can't use anymore, because it's off the market, or Celebrex or Bextra. And the sooner that action is taken, the better.

ROMANS: Bextra is another painkiller, also from Pfizer. The "New England Journal of Medicine" today issued a rare warning on Bextra, declaring it a public health concern.


ROMANS: At about $2 a pill, Celebrex will deliver almost $3.5 billion in sales to Pfizer this year. Bextra, more than $1 billion. But many doctors, Lou, say aspirin works just as well. It costs pennies, and its side effect is an upset stomach. DOBBS: Christine, thank you very much.

Less than three months ago, another widely popular drug, Vioxx, was recalled. Merck pulled Vioxx from the market after it found the drug doubled a patient's risk of heart attack or stroke if used over the long term.

More than 100 million prescriptions were written for Vioxx since it went on the market in 1999.

Last month, FDA whistleblower Dr. David Graham testified on Capitol Hill that the FDA does not do enough to protect the public from dangerous drugs.

He also listed five other widely used drugs he said should be withdrawn or restricted. Those drugs are Crestor, Meridia, Accutane, Serevent and Bextra. And as we just reported, the "New England Journal of Medicine" today recommended doctors stop prescribing Bextra because of increased heart risk.

The Food and Drug Administration is facing massive criticism for its failure to stop drugs like Celebrex and Vioxx before they're sold to the American people.

The FDA today said it has great concerns about Celebrex, but the FDA said it has taken no decision yet on whether to withdraw Celebrex from the market.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 1992, Congress passed a law that allowed the Food and Drug Administration to accept money from the pharmaceutical industry to help speed up the approval of new drugs. At the time, the concern was AIDS drugs were not getting to the market quickly enough.

But the law gave the drug industry a lot more power. Critics say the Office of Drug Safety is now beholden to the industry.

LARRY SASICH, PUBLIC CITIZEN STAFF PHARMACIST: They don't have the independent authority, for example, to require a safety labeling change on a drug or to recommend or institute procedures for withdrawal of a drug that is clearly dangerous.

SYLVESTER: Since 1990, 14 drugs approved by the FDA have been pulled from the market.

A survey by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General found that two out of three FDA scientists believe the agency does not adequately monitor the safety of prescription drugs on the market. And nearly one in five scientists felt pressure to approve or recommend approval, despite reservations about the safety or quality of a drug. LARRY NOBLE, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: I think there are probably a lot of American citizens out there who are very worried about this right now and who are wondering, well, what does it really mean if I'm told that the FDA has approved this drug for this use?

LESTER CRAWFORD, FDA ACTING COMMISSIONER: We can never be fail- safe, though, because we're dealing with products that are very difficult to evaluate. But we have to continue to refine and improve, based on the science that we have at hand.

We're far better at it than we used to be, but we need to be better in the future.

SYLVESTER: Congress has only recently started looking into the FDA's approval process. But even on Capitol Hill, the pharmaceutical companies carry clout.

REP. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH), HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE: It's pretty clear the drug industry has way too much influence in the White House, way too much influence in Congress. And now we see way too much influence in the Food and Drug Administration.


SYLVESTER: The FDA is considering a proposal to make the office of drug safety more independent.

And as for the drug, Celebrex, as you mentioned, Lou, the FDA says it will review the new data before determining if the drug should be pulled from the market -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you.

The Celebrex scandal is another huge blow to an industry that already faces a number of challenges. Those challenges include a declining public image, the threat of generic drugs, and foreign competition, and now massive lawsuits.

Peter Viles reports.


PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High prices, high profits, a failure to meet crucial needs such as the flu vaccine.

Even before the Celebrex scandal the drug industry's new lobbyist, Louisiana dealmaker Billy Tauzin admitted, quote, "This industry understands it's got a problem. It has to earn the trust and confidence of consumers again."

But when we asked a drug industry spokesman today, the day the Celebrex news broke, incredibly, he said the problem is one of perception, not reality.

DR. PAUL ANTONY, PHRMA: The problem is really a perception problem, and people need to realize that we have the best drug development system in the world.

JANELL DUNCAN, CONSUMERS UNION: There is a perception problem and it's quite likely based on reality. When you have the drugs and the safety of drugs that have been called into question after they're already marketed and are being taken by millions of people.

So yes, millions of people are concerned when they find out the drug that they are taking maybe could cause them harm.

VILES: On Wall Street, perception is reality, and it's very ugly for drug stocks. Eli Lilly has lost $60 billion in market value from its five-year peak. Merck has lost $134 billion, and Pfizer has lost $182 billion in market value.

For years, the industry did what investors wanted, consolidated, maximized profits through aggressive marketing of blockbuster drugs, and "me, too," versions of existing drugs, leading to what "The Wall Street Journal" now calls an industry crisis over lack of research and development productivity.

The industry faces pressures now from generic drugs, overseas competition, angry consumers, and politicians fed up by those high prices, and now, a growing scandal over whether those heavily advertised, billion-dollar drugs are even safe in the first place.


VILES: Now, back for a second to this issue of perception versus reality. Whatever the drug lobby would have us believe, this safety issue is a real issue. And it is a very real issue tonight for 27 million Americans whose doctors put them on Celebrex -- Lou.

DOBBS: And Pete, we thank you.

And we should point out to our viewers that Billy Tauzin, representing the industry, has declined our invitation to discuss all of these issues.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight: "How would you rate the Food and Drug Administration's ability to protect you from dangerous drugs? Good? Satisfactory? Or poor?" Please cast your vote at We'll be bringing you the results later in the broadcast.

More on the Celebrex scandal ahead. I'll be talking with Senator Chuck Grassley. His committee is investigating the FDA. He says it's time for a major reform.

I'll be talking with Harvard medical school professor Dr. John Abramson who says Celebrex is nothing more than a marketing miracle.

Also ahead, "Securing America." President Bush says the intelligence reform bill will make this country safer. It's now a law. Is the president right? Senator Susan Collins is our guest.

And "Law & Order." The federal government is all but ignoring the invasion of illegal aliens into this country. Now some communities are taking action on their own -- because they have to. We'll have that special report.


DOBBS: President Bush today signed into law the massive intelligence reform bill. The ceremony ends months of controversy over the bill, including its failure to stop millions of illegal aliens in this country from obtaining driver's licenses. President Bush said nonetheless the law will help protect this country from another terrorist attack.

Senior White House Correspondent John King reports.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's signature makes law the most dramatic changes to U.S. intelligence operations in nearly six decades and marks the second major government restructuring inspired by the 9/11 attacks.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our vast intelligence enterprise will become more unified, coordinated and effective. It will enable us to better do our duty, which is to protect the American people.

KING: The biggest change is a new director of national intelligence, a powerful new post with the authority -- on paper anyway -- to shape the intelligence-gathering and budgets of the CIA, the National Security Agency and a dozen other government spy agencies, many of them now under the control of the Pentagon.

BUSH: The director will lead a unified intelligence community and will serve as the principal adviser to the president on intelligence matters.

KING: That new post was the chief recommendation of the 9/11 commission, which found the terrorist attacks might have been prevented had the FBI, CIA and other agencies shared other information they had about the hijackers. The new also creates a federal counterterrorism center, calls for tighter border security and sets a uniformed standard for government I.D.s used to board commercial airliners.

The president initially resisted many of the major changes, but, at the signing ceremony, likened the intelligence overhaul to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

BUSH: Our government is adapting to confront and defeat these threats. We're staying on the offensive against the enemy.

KING: 9/11 families and commission members were among those on hand to celebrate, but, also, to make clear the president's work is just beginning. Signing the law won't alone end turf battles and inefficiencies in the intelligence community. JAMIE GORELICK (D), 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: The president will have to ride herd on this, he will have to make sure that the right people are in place and that the agencies of his administration really work together.

KING: Senior Bush aides say the president hopes to name his pick for the new intelligence post relatively soon, perhaps as early as next week.


KING: And one way to give the new director immediate political clout would be to add the responsibility of giving the president his daily intelligence briefing, instead of the CIA director.

Lou, there is momentum, we are told, building for that change, but some senior White House officials worry that the new intelligence chief will already have far enough to handle already and perhaps should not take on that added responsibility -- Lou.

DOBBS: And, John, do we have any indications as to who that director will be?

KING: Outside of the White House, you hear about a half-dozen names mentioned. One is the president's Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend. One is a 9/11 commission member, the former Navy secretary John Lehman. A retired admiral's name also comes up, very close to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Inside the White House, they are holding their cards quite closely, but they do say it is quite possible we will get that appointment sometime next week before the Christmas holiday.

DOBBS: John, thank you very much.

We'll have much more ahead on the intelligence reform law. Senator Susan Collins, who played a critical role in the negotiations to pass the legislation, is our guest here tonight. We'll also be talking about her very critical letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Tonight, an escalating battle outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba. The Cuban government today hung huge billboards outside the mission in Havana showing pictures of abused Iraqi prisoners. The images were covered with swastikas and the words "fascist" and "made in the USA."

The billboards come just days after Cuba's government warned the U.S. mission it would face consequences for setting up an elaborate Christmas display. The lights, candy canes and other Christmas decorations include a tribute to the 75 Cuban dissidents imprisoned by Fidel Castro's regime last year.

The U.S. mission says the display is simply a symbol of democracy and freedom and is refusing Cuba's demands to take it down. Still ahead here tonight, the rising battle over the invasion of illegal aliens. One lawmaker causing outrage by suggesting local police officers should play no part in enforcing our nation's immigration laws. We'll have a special report.

And then, another best-selling drug could severely harm your heart. Dr. John Abramson, the author of "Overdosed America," joins us to talk about today's warning about Celebrex.

And Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, joins us. He'll tell us why he believes the FDA is in desperate need of reform.

All of that and a great deal more coming right up.


DOBBS: As many as three million illegal aliens will have entered the country this year. The federal government is doing very little to stop them. States, however, some of them, are using efforts to crack down on illegal aliens. One lawmaker, however, has decided to make it more difficult for local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS (voice-over): Immigration is federal law, not local law. But, increasingly, locals are trying to take some control, whether it's something as simple as the City of Redondo Beach, California, trying to arrest illegal aliens lining up on street corners, Arizona citizens passing Proposition 200 to deny welfare benefits to illegals, or, in Suffolk County, New York, where the county is looking at deputizing members of its police force to give them authority to enforce immigration law.

Better coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement is an idea that even the 9/11 commission found appealing. Joan Molinaro lost her son, a firefighter, on September 11.

JOAN MOLINARO, 9/11 FAMILIES FOR A SECURE AMERICA: I think it's very important. You already have these people on the payroll. Give them the training. That just gives a broader spectrum to the ICE, more eyes, more ears, more people controlling terrorists' travel through this country.

TUCKER: But local police typically resist being given any immigration authority. Some state legislators worry that it could create an ad hoc approach to law enforcement.

In New York State, one assemblyman has introduced a bill forbidding local police from seeking the authority, known as 287g, under the federal code, without state permission.

PETER RIVERA, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY: All that I'm asking for with this piece of legislation is that it not be a local issue where it may be subject to the whims of local pressure, but that it be a state issue.

TUCKER: There is a way around this controversy, yet it is not much discussed. It's the Law-Enforcement Support Center run by ICE.

WILLIAM KNOCKS, IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: What the LASC provides is realtime response for state and local law-enforcement officers. They do not need 287g authority.

TUCKER: It allows officers to identify the legal status of an arrested immigrant.


TUCKER: Now using Law-Enforcement Support Center has resulted in nearly 12,000 illegals being detained so far this year -- Lou. So, if they want to skirt that controversy, they can go to some existing tools.

DOBBS: Or perhaps simply repair to common sense and look at the laws on the books and enforce them.

Bill, thank you.

Bill Tucker.

Coming up next here, much more on the threat posed by dangerous prescription drugs. I'll be joined by Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School and Senator Chuck Grassley, who's calling for major changes at the FDA.

Also tonight, Senator Susan Collins, who played a key role in pushing the intelligence reform legislation through Congress. It's now law. And she's also been openly critical of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Senator Collins joins us next.

And in "Heroes," an absolutely incredible story of survival from a Marine wounded in the battle for Fallujah. We'll have the story of Lance Corporal KC Moran next.


ANNOUNCER: LOU DOBBS TONIGHT continues. Here now for more news, debate and opinion, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: I'll be talking with Senator Susan Collins in just a moment. She's been sharply critical of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the handling of the Iraq war.

But, first, a look at the top news stories this evening.

The United States today completely forgave Iraq's $4.1 billion in debt owed to this country and encouraged other countries to do the same. Last month, a group of 19 creditor nations, including France and Germany, agreed to forgive as much as 80 percent of Iraq's debt. The United States hopes other creditors outside that group, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, will follow suit. NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe today defended his decision to pursue a robotic mission to repair the Hubbell telescope. O'Keefe, who resigned from NASA on Monday, said he had no regrets about his plan for a robotic mission, despite criticism of the plan from a panel of scientists who want a human mission to rescue Hubbell.

Air travelers have bombarded the FCC with hundreds of e-mails opposing the proposal to allow cell phone use on aircraft. The FCC reportedly received more than 1,200 e-mails on the subject. That after regulators voted to consider lifting the ban on cell phone use in the air.

My next guest is one of several Republican senators who are openly critical of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Senator Susan Collins wrote a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld this week saying she is troubled that our troops don't have the equipment they need.

Senator Collins also played a critical role in writing and passing and negotiating the passage of the intelligence reform bill that became law today. She's also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee joining us tonight from Capitol Hill.

Senator, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: First, congratulations on the signing of the bill today. Your efforts as a negotiator were successful. Is it your judgment that this is going to be a marked improvement in terms of national security?

COLLINS: I really think that this bill's going to make a significant difference in the analysis and collection of intelligence information. No one bill can guarantee that we'll be safe from a terrorist attack.

But, with this bill, we've transformed an intelligence structure that was built for the Cold War into a more agile structure designed to counter the terrorist threat.

DOBBS: Do you have a favorite to put in the role of the very important role of director of national intelligence?

COLLINS: I think there are a lot of people who would be good.

Probably my three top candidates would be Senator Joe Lieberman, who I think would be a terrific choice; Commissioner John Lehman, who -- the 9/11 commissioner, John Lehman, who's the former secretary of the Navy; and General Mike Hayden, who runs the National Security Agency.

I think the president could not go wrong if he nominated either of those three people. But I think there are a lot of qualified people for the slot.

DOBBS: A qualified person at the Department of Defense, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. A number of your colleagues, Republican colleagues in the Senate, are being critical. You have written a letter to the secretary critical and decrying the lack of body armor and up-armored, as it is described, Humvees. What has been the reaction from the Pentagon?

COLLINS: I haven't received a response yet.

But what really troubles me about this issue, Lou, is it was a year ago when I was in Maine. I was home for Christmas when a Maine soldier, who was home from Iraq for a leave, called me up and told me that his unit did not have a sufficient number of up-armored Humvees.

I brought that issue to the Pentagon almost immediately. I followed up in public hearings the beginning of March. And then again in May. Each time I was assured that the problem was being solved, that the manufacturers were operating at capacity. And it's very troubling to me that here we are, a year later, from when I first heard from this Maine soldier, and we still have the problem.

DOBBS: I think it is interesting, the number of people who have forgotten that the Defense Department, the Pentagon, has been reassuring not only the Senate and the House, that all that's possible was being done for our soldiers over the course of the past year in your hearings, but publicly reassuring all of us that they were, and it turns out, in point of fact, that was not the case. Would you want to see Donald Rumsfeld resign?

COLLINS: No, I'm not calling for his resignation. I think the president has the right to have whomever he's comfortable with in that position. And he's expressed confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld. So I'm not calling for his resignation, but I am calling for him to pay attention to this issue and to personally ensure that it's solved once and for all.

DOBBS: Senator Susan Collins, we thank you very much for being here.

COLLINS: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Tonight, in "Heroes," an extraordinary story of survival for the battle for Falluja. Marine Lance Corporal KC Moran was severely wounded in a mortal attack just six weeks ago. Even more harrowing was the battle to rescue him from the chaotic city alive. Casey Wian has his story.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The war was already under way when 20-year-old K.C. Moran joined the marines just over a year ago.

LANCE CORPORAL KC MORAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I knew I was going to Iraq when I saw it.

WIAN: Moran was a driver, but volunteered to relieve some marines who had been standing guard on a rooftop overlooking Falluja for more than 24 hours. Just an hour later, mortars started raining down.

MORAN: After it hit me, I was immediately down. I screamed out that I was hit.

WIAN: The mortars kept falling and rescuers dived on top of Moran to keep him from further injury. After a difficult rescue from the rooftop, he was finally bundled into a humvee.

MORAN: As we were leaving, the doc was trying to put an I.V. in my hand, and he was standing up, his head was probably about -- not quite a foot out of the vehicle. And we got hit by an IED.

WIAN: The driver was knocked unconscious. The rescue team changed drivers, only to be hit by a second blast which knocked out the second driver.

MORAN: We waited for probably not even five minutes. It was pretty fast. But it felt like a long time. And an ambulance came, it was a humvee ambulance, and they got hit by an IED also. And then the driver got injured on that vehicle, but they were all right. The vehicle was all right to drive. They switched drivers. And the driver proceeded to lead us back to base.

WIAN: Moran took shrapnel to his leg, back and stomach, losing six inches of intestine. Now just six weeks after the ordeal, he hopes to be able to rejoin his platoon.

MORAN: At first, after I got injured I was, like, get me out of here. I'm done. And after that, I started feeling a little better, I was, like, you know, I started feeling like I wanted to go back.

WIAN: Moran is scheduled to ship out again on Sunday. His family hopes he'll get a reprieve and be able to stay home for Christmas. Casey Wian, CNN, reporting.


DOBBS: We wish Corporal Moran and all of his comrades the best of luck.

Still ahead here tonight, the Food & Drug Administration fails again. How the agency approved another drug now considered too dangerous to take. Dr. John Abramson says drug companies, part of the problem. Senator Chuck Grassley says FDA, that agency is also a very big part of the problem. They are my guests next.

And then, the Discovery Channel's top young scientist of the year. Shannon McClintock has made some remarkable discoveries in her 14 years. She is our guest. Talk about America's bright future. All of that and more still ahead. Stay with us.


DOBBS: My guest says the system that oversees drug safety in this country is simply broken. Dr. John Abramson says there isn't enough separation between the FDA and drug companies. The disturbing result is the doctors aren't receiving critically important information about the drugs they're prescribing. Dr. Abramson is a Harvard Medical School professor joining us tonight from Boston. Doctor, good to have you with us.

DR. JOHN ABRAMSON, AUTHOR, "OVERDOSED AMERICA": Pleasure to be with you, Lou.

DOBBS: The idea that Celebrex is not being withdrawn, but a warning, a significant warning today. You're not surprised, though, are you?

ABRAMSON: Well, actually, I must say, I am surprised, Lou, because the issue of cardiovascular risk hadn't come up with Celebrex before. It certainly had come up with Vioxx. And when the Vioxx story broke in September, there was a trail of suggestion. With Celebrex, we hadn't seen a cardiovascular risk. It's a possible situation because the Cox 2 inhibitors of which Celebrex is one can increase the clotting of the blood.

DOBBS: It can increase the clotting of the blood, raising the risk of heart attack?

ABRAMSON: That's exactly right. That's what we saw in one of the studies that came out today.

DOBBS: Well, amongst the studies that are being conducted by the FDA by the profession itself, what in the world is going on? We have an entire class of what are called Cox 2 inhibitors, pain relievers, that are apparently a significant health risk. We've had the withdrawal of Vioxx. What is going on?

ABRAMSON: Really, Lou, we're not connecting the dots. The reviewers within the FDA did a beautiful job of analyzing the data from what was called the class study back in 2000. The manufacturer of Celebrex looked at 8,000 people treated with Celebrex or older antiinflammatory drugs for osteoarthritis. That study showed that Celebrex is no safer than the older drugs, it provides no better relief, and it costs ten to 15 times more. So the real issue with Celebrex is why the docs didn't know that it really didn't add very much clinical value for their patients. The docs were misled by the medical journals. That's where the real problem is.

DOBBS: Well, the "New England Journal of Medicine," as you know, has taken the unusual step of coming out on Bextra with a warning saying that it poses some considerable concern as well, a week before its publication date because they're so concerned that people are using Bextra. That's remarkable.

ABRAMSON: That's -- and that's an excellent trend. The article that published the original research for Celebrex was the "Journal of the American Medical Association" back in 2000. That article concluded that Celebrex, when taken for six months, produces fewer G.I. complications. The problem is, it wasn't a six-month study, it was a 12-month study. And the FDA and the manufacturer had all 12 months when that article was published. The full 12 months show that Celebrex is no safer than the other drugs. So the real issue here, Lou, is that the docs -- the docs who are reading the best medical journals are not getting the full view of the information, the scientific evidence, that's available. That's our problem. And until we straighten out what kind of information real doctors take into the examining room with them to see real patients, we're going to keep having these drug debacles one after the other.

DOBBS: And we're out of time, Doctor but is it also important to push back the relationship between our practitioners, our physicians in this country, push back the drug companies in that relationship? Because they are immersed in the offices of those doctors all around the country?

ABRAMSON: Absolutely. It's critically important. The job of the drug companies is to sell more drugs, not to improve our health. We need to be getting impartial information, and the docs need access to good information. That's the basic problem.

DOBBS: Dr. John Abramson, we thank you for being here.

ABRAMSON: Pleasure to be with you, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, one of the people trying to do something about what is beginning to look very much like a crisis in this country is Senator Chuck Grassley. He's chairman of the Senate finance committee and has held public hearings on dangerous prescription drugs. Senator Grassley has called for major changes in the FDA in order to ensure drug safety is that agency's priority.

Chairman Grassley joins us tonight from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Senator, good to have you here.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: Glad to be with you, Lou.

DOBBS: This new study, you've just heard Dr. John Abramson, one of the most respected voices on this issue. You've been holding hearings. What in the world are we going to do? Because it looks like an entire class of drugs is, at best, problematic. And some of them apparently dangerous to the public health.

GRASSLEY: Well, ten days ago, when you interviewed me, I wouldn't have said this, but we've had another shoe drop. And I think we're going to have to have very great scrutiny of the process within the government of the review of drugs. So I'm calling for a 9/11-type commission of scientific experts to review the drug safety issues and how the government supervises it and what's wrong and come up with some recommendations so that we can get on top of this.

Now, this wouldn't be a permanent organization. It would just be a short-term one to look at it. But scientific experts to tell us what needs to be done so what the FDA and the drug companies are not doing to ensure safety, we can have a better grasp of the safety.

DOBBS: One of the complications in what is a very complicated situation, it seems to me, senator, is that we have the finest doctors in the world. They're busy. And interposed with those doctors is both the source of information as well as bringing new products to their attention in terms of marketing are the pharmaceutical companies. The educational role has, by default, if you will, a continuing education of doctors, as by default, been relegated to the pharmaceutical companies themselves, giving them extraordinary influence in our medical care system. Is there anything we can do about that?

GRASSLEY: Well, yes. And this is another thing I suggested on your previous interview with me. And that is legislation I'm going to put into have full transparency of all of the tests that are done, the clinical tests, clinical trial registries so we have full transparency of programs so that -- I mean of the drugs and the safety of the drugs.

DOBBS: Right.

GRASSLEY: So that when doctors want to get more information, they'll have access to all the information.

Now, I don't think that solves your question to me about doctors being busy and having to rely upon drug companies and maybe having too close of a relationship. But at least for doctors that are interested, there will be more out there.

DOBBS: Senator Chuck Grassley, thank you.

GARSSLEY: Thank you.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote on our poll. The question tonight is, how would you rate the FDA's ability to protect you from dangerous drugs? Good? Satisfactory or Poor? Please cast your vote at We'll have the results for you coming right up.

Just ahead next, three of the country's very best journalists join me.

And celebrating America's Bright Future. We'll meet a young woman who is a very important part of that future. She's dazzling the science world with her remarkable achievements. We'll be talking with this terrific 14-year-old young lady in just a moment.

All of that and a great deal more still ahead. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of this country's very best journalists: Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, Mark Morrison, Businessweek here -- we'll try there in Washington. Roger Simon of U.S. News and World Report. Good to have you all here.


DOBBS: Let's begin first, if I may, Mark, with the idea that we have another drug here, blockbuster drug, so-called, exploding in the face of the drug company and potentially those who have been using it. MARK MORRISON, BUSINESSWEEK: It says loud and clear there are some fundamental problems with the structure of the drug industry and the regulation of it, as some of your guests have talked about tonight. And it seems to me we're going to have to go back and look at the whole process. This is exacerbated, because of the business model that the drug companies have now where you have to come up with these blockbuster drugs, and you do that by getting to market quick and by spending billions, you know, $500 billion on some of these drugs to promote them. And it's just too much power, too quick, and too much of a risk is being taken.

DOBBS: And Senator Chuck Grassley, as you know, Ron, stepping behind Dr. David graham, the whistleblower, his work led to the recall of Vioxx. Without people like Senator Grassley trying to fight both the bureaucracy, the system and the all-powerful lobby of the pharmaceutical companies, we'd be in real trouble here.

RON BROWNSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Senator Grassley has been a defender of whistleblower on many subjects for a long time. The problem, though, we have here in Washington has been -- we're seeing in the last couple days is symptomatic is what is often the issue. I mean, whether we were on Enron last year, or whatever scandal the year before, regulation is unpopular in the abstract and general.

Often, however, we need protections against the excesses of the market. And drawing that line is very difficult. There's going to be a lot of pressure now for Congress to do something. On the other hand, Lou, as you mentioned, the pharmaceutical industry is a very powerful and effective lobby, they donated over $8 million in the last election cycle, two-thirds of it to Republicans. They've developed very close relations with the Republican leadership. It is not going to be easy for Congress to do something that they don't want to have done.

DOBBS: The intelligence reform legislation, Roger Simon, signed into law. How significant do you think it is? It's been called -- well, the hyperbole is extraordinary surrounding it. What's your judgment?

ROGER SIMON, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: I think it has the potential to be very significant. We don't know that it will be. But it's certainly better than what we had before. One of the chief findings of the 9/11 commission was that 9/11 might have been prevented or could have been prevented if intelligence agencies simply shared information. This should happen under the new bill.

And this bill was a great -- is a great political victory primarily for the 9/11 families who fought very hard for it, who never gave up, who fought against the White House that was, to put it mildly, lukewarm in the beginning, and in some cases had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support this bill.

DOBBS: Well, some kicking and screaming surrounding the nomination of Bernard Kerik to homeland security. An embarrassing withdrawal for the White House. A failure, apparently, to vet this man over the course of years. MORRISON: Let's hope they do a little better with this intelligence job they're now creating and with homeland as well. I mean, you're creating, with this intelligence -- new intelligence bureaucracy, a very very powerful position. When you think about all the different intelligence agencies funneling information to this one place. And the chance for abuse there, if it's not just the right crew of people working on it, is pretty scary.

BROWNSTEIN: I think Roger's right. We don't really know how significant this is going to be. We're engaged in the biggest reorganization of the national security infrastructure of the country, really, since the end of World War II, between the consolidation of these different agencies into the Department of Homeland Security, now the potential for this director of national intelligence to exert significant influence across the intelligence bureaucracy. It is difficult to do.

Anybody who works in a big company knows how difficult it is to get different divisions to talk to each other. We're seeing the same thing in Washington. No one would say the Department of Homeland Security so far has done everything that we've hoped. I think the jury will be out for a number of years. The potential is there for both of these changes, DHS and this new director of national intelligence, to give us better coordination, but the devil will be in the details and the day to day bureaucratic fight.

DOBBS: I have to tell you, Roger, I am actually shocked at the revelations coming out about Bernard Kerik. A man -- distinguished service here in New York City. I'm also stunned at the accolades that are being laid at the feet of this massive concentration of bureaucracy in both what -- through the intelligence reform bill and the Department of Homeland Security. I'm not one of those who is assured by seeing greater concentration and centralization.

SIMON: You may be right. I mean, Bernie Kerik seems to have done everything except stick up a Seven-11. I don't know what his plans are for tonight. Both the White House and the media fell victim to the New York syndrome, which is, you know, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. So we thought he had been vetted to the Nth Degree. It turns out he was barely vetted at all. Rudy Giuliani wanted him, so he got him. And Giuliani forgot that right outside New York City there's a place called the United States of America that plays by a few different rules.

You're absolutely right about the concentration of power. It's only as good and effective as the hands that it is concentrated in. If you get a loser to head this new intelligence agency, we're going to have a loser agency. And that's why we need very careful vetting for this new chief.

BROWNSTEIN: The broader point you raise, though, is intriguing. Most of corporate America is moving to a more horizontal structures to decentralizing authority, giving people at the front lines more authority. We are in Washington now engaged in this enormous consolidation hoping it will improve coordination, not sure if it will, but that is the goal. MORRISON: Beyond coordination, what about this leads to better information from the field? What we really need for intelligence is getting our people in the right places out there to find out the information.

DOBBS: Mark Morrison, Ron, we thank you very much. Roger, your comment about if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere...


DOBBS: That's why Ron Brownstein's here. He's demonstrating that. Thank you.

SIMON: Testing it.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, gentlemen.

MORRISON: Merry Christmas.

DOBBS: Merry Christmas to you. Happy Holidays.

Still ahead, one of the brightest young minds in America. Shannon McClintock is an accomplished, award-winning scientist, and she's all of 14 years of age. She's our guest here next.


DOBBS: My next guest was named America's top young scientist of the year. Shannon McClintock is 14 years of age. Shannon won the grand prize at the Discovery Channel Young Scientists Challenge. And with it, a $15,000 scholarship. Her winning idea -- Shannon calls it the little engine that could. Enhancing traction through friction. Shannon McClintock, congratulations. Great to have you with us here in the studio.


DOBBS: This is remarkable. Now, what is enhancing traction through friction?

MCCLINTOCK: What I did was I did a project about trains. And commonly, people will throw sand out underneath the wheels on the tracks to aid a train when it starts out, or if it reaches a slippery spot. So I thought, what if we used a different material to, you know, save fuel, save time, save money and make this system so much more efficient?

DOBBS: Well, what a terrific idea. You've brought this testing device. I understand it's a testing device. I'm almost at the limit of my technological knowhow. This -- what does this do?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, what it does is it helps me to test how much material increases friction. Right here, I can turn it on and show you. DOBBS: Woops. I'm told that -- we've already exceeded the boundaries of our technology here that it's not plugged in.

MCCLINTOCK: Oh, OK. I can show you pretty much what it does, just a lot slower.

DOBBS: Slower is good for me, Shannon.

MCCLINTOCK: You drop the material in between these two wheels here. And then the motor will spin this wheel, which will then cause this wheel to spin.

DOBBS: Terrific.

MCCLINTOCK: So by causing slippage in between these two wheels and then dropping material in, you can time using a bike speedometer and a stopwatch how much more friction you're getting by seeing how much faster this wheel goes.

DOBBS: Shannon, it's pretty clear to me you deserve your award.

MCCLINTOCK: Thank you.

DOBBS: And we're going to -- I'm going to ask our producers here to be explaining to me precisely what you said in terms I can understand over the next week or two. Let me ask you, what are your plans?


DOBBS: Do you know what you want to do?

MCCLINTOCK: I really don't know. I can tell you, though, that doing this competition was really a great thing for me, and it really showed me that science wasn't just working in a lab in one of those white little suits that scientists wear. The Discovery Channel, young scientists competition was a great way to show me a hands-on, large- scale experience of science using skateboarders and lasers and all kinds of fun things.

DOBBS: Fun things. Now, the idea that you're fascinated by science and mathematics. How long have you had this interest?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, I can tell you that ever since I've been a little teeny girl, I've been taking things apart. Engineering, you can say. If I get a new toy, I'd have to take it apart, see how it works. And that's just always fueled my love of science for as long as I've been around.

DOBBS: Well, you're absolutely terrific. We thank you for being here. We congratulate you, and we wish you all the very, very best. Shannon McClintock.

MCCLINTOCK: Thank you so much.

DOBBS: Thank you. The results now of our poll, turning to another issue. Three percent of you would rate the FDA's ability to protect you from dangerous drugs as good. Nine percent, satisfactory. 88 percent, say poorly.

And Bill Moyers is signing off. Tonight his final broadcast of "PBS Now With Bill Moyers" ending what has been a 33-year run on public television. Over the course of his distinguished career, he's enriched the body of public knowledge and the lives of all of us who have had the privilege of watching him and listening to him. The program returns January 7 with current co-host David Brancaccio taking the reins. We wish them the best of luck, both.

Thanks for being with us here tonight. Please join us Monday. Dennis Halliday, former head of the U.N.'s Oil for Food program in Iraq will be here as the scandal widens and worsens. And a new series of special reports called Holiday Homefront. The men and women here at home who are making sure our troops overseas know that our thoughts are with them this Christmas season.

For all of us here have a very pleasant weekend. Good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is next.


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