Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ex-Chief Urges FDA To Mine Databases

The former head of the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that the agency should make more use of the pooled information contained in large health-care databases, such as those run by private insurers that include information about 100 million Americans.

Such an arrangement, Mark B. McClellan said, would respect patient confidentiality while broadening the FDA's view of drug safety problems as they emerge. McClellan spoke during an Institute of Medicine symposium on the drug safety challenges the FDA faces.

McClellan cited Vioxx, asserting that safety problems with the drug could have been detected in months rather than years if the FDA had been able to sift through information in health-care databases.

The FDA has already begun to tap into large private and public health-care databases, the agency's Gerald Dal Pan told the symposium. But it needs still more epidemiologists and computer programmers to do the work, he added.

Secret Hearings Begin For Terror Suspects

Secret hearings for two suspected masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a third terrorism suspect were held over the weekend at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine whether the men should be prosecuted.

According to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, hearings for Abu Faraj al-Libi and Ramzi Binalshibh were Friday, and a hearing for Khalid Sheik Mohammed was Saturday. He said another hearing was scheduled for yesterday.

The hearings are to determine whether the detainees should be declared "enemy combatants" who can be held indefinitely and prosecuted in a military tribunal.

Mohammed is believed to have been the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, with the alleged help of Binalshibh, who also is suspected of being involved in a foiled plot to crash aircraft into London's Heathrow Airport. Al-Libi, a Libyan, is regarded by Pakistani intelligence as a successor to Mohammed as the third-ranking al-Qaeda leader.

Republicans Protest Use of Capitol Room

A House Republican leadership group said Democrats should retract an offer to let the nation's largest Islamic civil liberties organization use a Capitol conference room for a seminar.

The House Republican Conference referred to the Council on American-Islamic Relations as "terrorist apologists" and called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to cancel the forum, scheduled for today.

CAIR national communications director Ibrahim Hooper called the GOP comments "really disappointing."

-- From News Services

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