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RACHEL MARTIN, host:
Two new reports call into question how drug companies get their products to market by influencing medical research. According to reports published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, drug company Merck frequently paid academic scientists to take credit for research articles on products that were actually written by Merck employees. The articles only contend that Merck tried to minimize deaths in two studies that showed that the now withdrawn drug, Vioxx, didn't work.
Last fall, Merck agreed to a 4.85 billion dollar settlement to resolve tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by former Vioxx patients or their families. Merck acknowledged that, this week, that it sometimes hires outside medical writers to draft research reports, but the company says the final product does reflect the opinion of the doctor who ends up signing off.
Senator John McCain yesterday gave his most comprehensive speech on the U.S. economy to date in this presidential race. Speaking in Pittsburg, McCain outlined a series of tax cuts and he pushed for federal intervention to help struggling homeowners refinance, something his Democratic rivals have done as well. But the big headline was his plan to do this.
(Soundbite of speech)
Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): I propose that the federal government suspend all taxes on gasoline now paid by the American people from Memorial Day to Labor Day of this year.
MARTIN: McCain said giving Americans a reprieve from the gas tax would provide an immediate economic stimulus. The McCain campaign estimates their candidate's proposed tax cuts would total 200 billion dollars a year. If the tax cuts pushed by President Bush are made permanent, that figure would more than double.
McCain's rivals, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, criticized McCain's proposals as an extension of an extension of failed policies of the Bush administration. But the two Democratic candidates will turn on each other tonight once again as they debate in Philadelphia, less than a week before that state's primary. Here's NPR's Mara Liasson.
MARA LIASSON: The controversy over Obama's comments about bitter voters who cling to guns or religion has completely dominated the campaign this week. It's the subject of ads by both candidates, and Clinton has been hammering Obama for the remarks at every opportunity. She says it shows he's out of touch with the values of small town voters, and that if he's the nominee, he'll be vulnerable to the Republican attacks in the fall for being a latte-liberal.
The controversy has also reintroduced an issue, gun control, the Democrats have tried to avoid, since it's unpopular with the kinds of rural, socially-conservative voters they are trying to court as they campaign in Pennsylvania. Both Obama and Clinton have been pointing out that they believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to bear arms.
MARTIN: NPR's Mara Liasson reporting. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania's senior senator, Arlen Specter, has announced his cancer has returned. In a statement released yesterday, Specter said he's been diagnosed with an early recurrence of Hodgkin's disease, which is cancer of the lymph system.
The 78-year-old senator underwent successful surgery for the same cancer in 2005. The statement said Specter will be treated with three months of chemotherapy. That's the news and it's always online at npr.org.
WOLFF: This is NPR.
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