Congress's heparin "shock" will hamper Hamburg in China

Congress's outrage last week over China's lack of attention during and after the contaminated heparin crisis of 2007-2008 is puzzling given what's already known about the case, and disappointing given known behaviors of People's Republic leadership. Rep. Joe Barton says it's "shocking" to find out that the Chinese government still has not investigated, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Such an inflammatory charge can only make for more difficult discussions between Chinese drug officials and FDA head Margaret Hamburg when she visits next month. And the Chinese response to Barton's comment--denial of the charge and refutation--is completely predictable.

So the finger-pointing now becomes the starting point of the upcoming discussion, rather than a recap of what's currently known and determination of next steps. Congress is well aware that drug-maker Chongqing Imperial has been implicated in the case, which Barton mentions in an April statement. Whether or not China had a hand in discovering Chongqing involvement is beside the point; Chongqing is a much better gambit than charge and countercharge.

The Congressional outrage, though consistent with the lawmakers' temperament when it visited the contaminated heparin matter in April, is puzzling also in its China-only focus. Investigators then were clear that they found FDA follow-up "inadequate," and delivered a warning letter of sorts to Hamburg. The lawmakers then asked for an FDA response by end of May. No word yet on whether that deadline was met.

Note to Margaret Hamburg: Brings gifts for the Chinese; bring home gifts for Congress.

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