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Project on Government Oversight

Public Health

One of the federal government’s most important jobs is protecting the public from contaminated food, dangerous medications and medical devices, and disease outbreaks. Unfortunately, many of the safeguards put in place to ensure the public’s well-being have been undermined by corporate interests. POGO’s investigations are aimed at improving transparency and accountability at the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies in charge of protecting public health.  Click on the program areas below to learn more. 
Bug Bombs & Foggers
An investigation by POGO in the late 1990s revealed that a growing number of fires and explosions were being caused by Insecticide Foggers (a.k.a. "bug bombs").  POGO convinced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require new and improved warning labels on the bug bombs, despite fierce opposition from the aerosol industry.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come under a great deal of scrutiny of late for approving drugs with dangerous side effects and failing to protect the public from contaminated food.  POGO is concerned about the excessive influence of industry at the FDA, especially when it comes to conflicts of interest among scientists on the FDA’s advisory committees.  But POGO also recommends that Congress increase the FDA’s budget so that it has the resources it needs to protect public health.   
Health Care Fraud
The health care industry has raised strong opposition to the False Claims Act, which forces companies and individuals to be hold accountable for defrauding the government and the taxpayers.  Health care fraud has been a particularly serious problem with organizations that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.  POGO’s investigations revealed that the False Claims Act has returned billions of dollars to the taxpayers in cases of health care fraud.
Integrity in Science
Time and time again, POGO has found that pharmaceutical companies and other private interests have unduly influenced the decision-making process at the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  POGO is particularly concerned with government researchers and advisors who also get paid as private industry consultants.  Improved transparency and disclosure rules are needed to ensure that the government’s scientific integrity is not being undermined by conflicts of interest.
Pandemic Flu Vaccine
In a pandemic flu outbreak, there could be deaths in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S. and in the tens of millions worldwide.  A vaccine will limit the harm caused by the influenza virus when it appears and spreads.  Yet POGO has found that the current government plan for production of the vaccine does not reflect the urgency of the problem nor the critical leadership it deserves.  In addition, a lack of sufficient transparency and disclosure has beset the program to date.