Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany) says that federal prosecutors should probe whether four New Jersey legislators violated any laws when they pushed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a medical device marketed by campaign contributors.
A New York Times story this morning alleged that U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken) and Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park), and U.S. Reps. Steven Rothman (D-Fair Lawn) and Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), asked the FDA to reverse the recommendation of their scientists and approve a patch for injured knees that had been found to be unsafe. The manufacturer, ReGen Biologics, Inc., made what the Times called "significant" contributions to their campaigns a few months before they intervened with the FDA.
DeCroce, citing OpenSecrets.org, a website that tracks campaign contributions, the four Democrats received a total of $26,00 from ReGen executives. He wants the incoming U.S. Attorney, Paul Fishman, to make a probe of the congressional Democrats his first priority.
"This could be one of the worst cases of ‘pay-to-play' perpetrated by any public official in New Jersey," said DeCroce.
DeCroce says that the two Senators and two Congressmen put the interests of a campaign contributor ahead of the health of people in pain.
"The fact that the FDA has never questioned the process behind one of its approvals and never admitted that a regulatory decision was influenced by politics – until now – is extremely disturbing," DeCroce said. "The content and tone of FDA report is extraordinary and shows how seriously the agency considers this matter. An investigation should commence immediately."
Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) wants Gov. Jon Corzine to ask the state Department of Health and Senior Services to find out how many Menaflex knee impants were received by New Jersey residents.
"The widely reported allegations that this device is unsafe for patients are shocking and demand an immediate public health response from the governor," Kean said. "If these allegations are true, then it is very important that New Jersey find and aid any state patients victimized by political failures," Kean said. "Governor Corzine should order the health commissioner to start her inquiry today."