Newt Gingrich, speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995–98, has promised to create “a new 21st Century FDA” that would overhaul the agency into “a fair and competent regulatory regime that emphasizes both consumer safety and ensures that life-saving breakthrough products get from our labs to our pharmacies and homes as efficiently as possible.
“Unfortunately, the FDA falls well short of this expectation, and its stagnant bureaucracy has only gotten worse in recent years,” Gingrich said, citing the approval of just 21 new drugs in FY 2010. FDA insists its performance is improving since it approved 35 new drugs in FY 2011. The new FDA, said Gingrich, would prioritize drug reviews for brain disorders including Alzheimer disease, autism, mental illness, and Parkinson disease, priorities that presumably would be exercised as well by NIH in awarding research grants.
In a February 11, 2011 interview with The Hill, Gingrich joined former FDA commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach and Wayne Oliver, a vp at the Gingrich-founded think tank Center for Health Transformation, in dismissing NIH’s new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences as “well intentioned” but “doomed to fail.” However, Gingrich opposed Republican efforts in FY 2011 to cut NIH’s budget by $1.6 billion; the agency that year saw 1%, or $330 million, less funding than the previous year.
Gingrich has drawn fire from some conservatives opposed to abortion rights, after telling ABC News in an interview published December 2, 2011, that he considered human life to begin at implantation: “I think that if you take a position when a woman has a fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life, because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions.”
A day later, Gingrich insisted that “human life begins at conception” and declared to ABC: “I oppose federal funding of any research that destroys a human embryo because we are also dealing here with human life.” Gingrich said he wouldn’t rule out hESC research, adding, “if you can get embryonic stem cells for example from placental blood, if you can get it in ways that do not involve the loss of a life, that’s a perfectly legitimate avenue of approach.”