Thanks for the brain cancer, Rumsfeld and Reagan!
60 Minutes‘ correspondent Mike Wallace stated in his 1996 report on aspartame — available to view in this 2009 article — that the approval of aspartame was “the most contested in FDA history.” And for good reason.
At the time, independent studies had found it caused brain cancer in lab animals, and the studies submitted by G.D. Searle to the FDA for the approval were quickly suspected of being sloppy at best.
In that 60-Minutes video, former Senator Howard Metzenbaum states: “According to the FDA themselves, Searle, when making their presentation to the FDA, had willfully misrepresented the facts, and withheld some of the facts that they knew would possibly jeopardize the approval.”
Metzenbaum’s staff investigated the aspartame approval process. He goes on to explain that: “FDA officials were so upset they sent the file to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago for the purposes of presenting it to the grand jury as to whether or not there should be indictments. But it wasn’t presented. It was delayed.”
Samuel Skinner, the U.S. attorney who led the grand jury probe ended up withdrawing from the case when he entered into job discussions with Searle’s Chicago law firm, Sidley & Austin – a job he later accepted. Subsequently, the investigation stalled until the statute of limitation ran out, at which point the investigation against Searle was dropped.
…The FDA itself suspected Searle had unlawfully produced “evidence” to support its claims of safety, and FDA officials were sufficiently disturbed by what they received to launch its first-ever criminal investigation.
According to FDA toxicologist, Dr. M. Jacqueline Verrett, in Searle’s studies:
- Animals were not permanently tagged to avoid mix-ups
- Tumors were removed and the animals returned to the study
- Animals were recorded as dead, but subsequent records, after varying periods of time, indicated the same animal was still alive (almost certain evidence of mix-ups)
- Many animal tissues were decomposed before any postmortem examinations were performed
So is aspartame safe for widespread consumption? A 1996 review of 165 studies
Of the 166 studies felt to have relevance for questions of human safety, 74 had Nutrasweet® industry related funding and 92 were independently funded. One hundred percent of the industry funded research attested to aspartame’s safety, whereas 92% of the independently funded research identified a problem.
And almost all of the “independent” studies that failed to identify a problem were conducted by the FDA, whose employees regularly revolve back-and-forth between industry and the FDA.
Aspartame was not approved until 1981, in dry foods. For over eight years the FDA refused to approve it because of the seizures and brain tumors this drug produced in lab animals. The FDA continued to refuse to approve it until President Reagan took office (a friend of Searle) and fired the FDA Commissioner who wouldn’t approve it. Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes was appointed as commissioner. Even then there was so much opposition to approval that a Board of Inquiry was set up. The Board said: “Do not approve aspartame”. Dr. Hayes OVERRULED his own Board of Inquiry.
Shortly after Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., approved the use of aspartame in carbonated beverages, he left for a position with G.D. Searle’s Public Relations firm [Burson-Marsteller].
Who headed this mendacious, rapacious firm willing to trick the FDA and the American people into embracing its dangerous product? According to Wikipedia:
From 1977 to 1985 [Donald] Rumsfeld served as Chief Executive Officer, President, and then Chairman of G. D. Searle & Company, a worldwide pharmaceutical company based in Skokie, Illinois. During his tenure at Searle, Rumsfeld led the company’s financial turnaround, thereby earning awards as the Outstanding Chief Executive Officer in the Pharmaceutical Industry from the Wall Street Transcript (1980) and Financial World (1981). In 1985, Searle was sold to Monsanto Company. Rumsfeld is believed to have earned around $12 million from this sale.
Rumsfeld was essential to getting this neurotoxin approved by the FDA. Andrew Cockburn’s book, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy, provides horrifying details. On pages 65 and 66, Cockburn wrote:
“In January 1980… [Washington University School of Medicine professor of neuropathology and psychiatry Dr. John W.] Olney unearthed a report detailing an experiment carried out on rats in the early seventies. ‘What startled me most,’ he told me, ‘was that it showed that aspartame had been causing brain tumors in rats, and the FDA [in originally reviewing the safety study] had just sloughed it off.’ …[T]his evidence of a possible link between aspartame and brain tumors had a decisive effect. In September 1980, the panel issued their verdict, a 3-0 vote to block the aspartame release pending resolution of the concerns about cancer.”
But Rumsfeld was extremely well connected with Reagan and many of his staffers and used his influence to get the FDA commissioner fired (p. 66):
Jere Goyan, FDA commissioner at the time, informed me how he was “fired… in early November by a phone call to my California home at two a.m. California time by a very low-level member of the [Reagan] transition team… It was the first time that a commissioner had been fired because of a change in administration. I was told to write a letter of resignation and to vacate my office on the day of the inauguration.”
The virtual unknown Arthur Hull Hayes was brought in briefly, apparently just to approve aspartame:
“On July 18, 1981, in the first major regulatory action of his tenure, Hayes approved aspartame for use as a sweetener in solid foods, thereby disregarding the inquiry verdict as well as yet another internal study that raised alarms about the cancer risk.”
Olney (on p. 71 of Cockburn’s book) believes aspartame has caused glioblastoma rates to skyrocket:
“The rate of glioblastoma, the most malignant kind [of brain tumor], had markedly increased in the ten years immediately following the introduction of aspartame, while the rate of incidence of less malignant types had decreased. …Something has been introduced into the human environment that has caused brain tumors to become more malignant. I don’t have direct evidence that aspartame is the cause. But it hasn’t been explained in any other way.”
Even if aspartame is not causing brain cancer, evidence available in 1981 clearly suggested aspartame could cause brain cancer in lab animals. Aspartame should never have been approved.
Posted by James on Thursday, August 05, 2010