Seeking odd couples

Why America needs another Orrin Hatch to maintain its biomedical preeminence

When Sen. Orrin Hatch retires in December, the U.S. Congress will lose the last living link to the lawmakers who collaborated across party lines to transform the FDA into the gold standard for medical product oversight, create the generic drug industry and make R&D on rare diseases economically feasible.

To continue to adapt to scientific advances and changes in medicine and society, the American political system will need to replicate the collaborative model exemplified by the relationship between Hatch (R-Utah) and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), or find other ways to reach bipartisan consensus on contentious public health challenges.

Hatch, a conservative Republican, has often said he ran for the Senate to fight against Kennedy and his liberal policies.

When he arrived in Washington in 1976, Hatch followed through with the plan. He and Kennedy battled fiercely, but quickly found that many of their disagreements were over tactics, not goals.

“A large part

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