Guest Column:Drug Risks/Safety

Recently, when the New England Journal of Medicine announced that the diabetes drug Avandia could substantially increase the risk of heart attacks and deaths, the news caused a flurry of headlines and renewed calls for drug manufacturers to publicly disclose the results of clinical drug studies.

This is just the latest drug crisis in a series of crises. That's why the consumer group CALPIRG is joining me in calling for improving drug safety by requiring all drug testing reports to be made available to the public.

The U.S. Senate has taken a first step in policing drug makers by passing a bill requiring the FDA to track side effects of prescription drugs. I want to send a clear signal to pharmaceutical manufacturers that stronger measures are needed to restore confidence.

I have introduced once more the "Pharmaceutical Drug Safety and Information Act" that will put an end to this game of hide and seek. The bill requires all pharmaceutical manufacturers to publicly release the results of all the drug studies they sponsor, good or bad.

These findings will be posted on a website that is easily accessed by the public and will give doctors, researchers and patients access to never-before-seen studies. This important legislation will help fill the void between marketing hype and lax government oversight.

This bill also confronts the problem of soaring healthcare costs by tackling the problem of overpriced and underperforming medicines. Your doctor will have access to all of the health and effectiveness studies conducted by manufacturers and will finally be able to clearly compare medicines.

Last year when I introduced a similar bill, the pharmaceutical companies put so much pressure on the Assembly committee hearing the bill that it failed passage. Passing this legislation will require standing up to the pharmaceutical industry, yet it will also mean standing alongside an array of senior, health, labor and consumer groups supporting this bill.

With this legislation, we will give physicians and consumers the information they need to make safe and informed decisions. We, as Californians, are entitled to a more transparent process, especially in view of the premium we all pay for prescription drugs.

But, more important, this bill will provide a dose of medicine to prevent drug tragedies from happening here in California. We should never allow the profits of the pharmaceutical companies to stand in the way of saving lives.

State Sen. Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) represents District 21, which includes La Cañada Flintridge and other San Gabriel Valley communities.

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