Capitol Recap: Georgia lawmakers want answers about shortage of cancer drugs

Nine members of Georgia's congressional delegation have sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration seeking information about a shortage of cancer drugs that began with the shutdown of a factory in India due to deficiencies. (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Credit: Richard Lautens

Credit: Richard Lautens

Nine members of Georgia's congressional delegation have sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration seeking information about a shortage of cancer drugs that began with the shutdown of a factory in India due to deficiencies. (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Supplies of chemotherapy medications declined after India factory shut down

A bipartisan share of Georgia’s congressional delegation is pressing the Food and Drug Administration for information about what it’s doing to ease a shortage of cancer drugs.

The shortage originated, according to a report from Bloomberg News, when a factory in India shut down due to deficiencies, reducing the supply of a generic chemotherapy drug called cisplatin. Then it became difficult to obtain another chemotherapy drug that can sometimes be used as a substitute, carboplatin.

As doctors turned to other medications, the shortage spread to additional drugs in a domino effect, the lawmakers wrote.

“Cancer hospitals in Georgia are currently tracking several drugs other than cisplatin as limited in supply, including carboplatin, fludarabine, fluorouracil, methotrexate, dacarbazine, idarubicin and Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG),” the nine lawmakers wrote. “Georgia cancer patients and their doctors deserve to choose treatment based on best evidence and what works for the patient without the additional burden of worrying about the availability and safety of drugs.”

Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “many of these drugs are kind of the core backbone for treatments that have high cure rates.”

The shortage of carboplatin prompted the FDA to allow imports of a version of the drug produced in China that has not been approved in the U.S.

The Georgia lawmakers asked the FDA how it’s working to reopen the production plant in India and how the agency is ensuring drugs imported from other countries meet U.S. standards. They also asked how Congress could address the root causes of drug shortages, particularly those affecting chemotherapy drugs, so that in the future, the closure of one manufacturing plant will not affect half of the U.S. supply of a critical drug.”

The FDA told the AJC that it carefully assesses the quality of overseas products to make sure they’re acceptable for U.S. use. It also laid out steps it had taken to address the ongoing drug shortages.

It may be as much a problem of economics as science.

Dahut said many of the drugs are generic and have a low profit margin, making their production a lower priority for drug companies.

The shortages have eased some after peaking earlier in the year, Dahut said. But problems remain. For example, of the 15 cancer drugs currently on the FDA shortage list, nine are used for treating children.

Signing the letter were Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, R-Evans, Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, Rich McCormick, R-Suwanee, and Austin Scott, R-Tifton, according to a copy provided by Warnock’s office.

State Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, has unleashed attacks on fellow Republicans — calling them “buzzard cowards” — for not going along with his petition seeking a special session of the General Assembly to impeach Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Top Republicans say such a session is impossible because the GOP does not have the three-fifths majority to either call for a session or impeach Willis. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Call for special session sparks fight among Georgia Republicans

Some supporters of Donald Trump have made a lot of noise about calling a special session of the General Assembly to impeach Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis as retribution for her bringing charges against the former president.

State Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, has been responsible for much of the din, mostly by attacking other Republicans — calling them “buzzard cowards” — for not going along with his petition to call in legislators for the purposes of punishing Willis.

It doesn’t matter, at least to Moore, that top Republicans say it would be politically impossible.

Not only do Republicans not have the three-fifths majority to vote for a special session — impeachment would require the same margin — House Speaker Jon Burns said the idea is likely unconstitutional.

“Targeting one specific DA in this manner certainly flaunts the idea of separation of powers, if not outright violates it,” Burns wrote in a letter to Republican House members.

Other Republicans, such as state Sen. Russ Goodman of Homerville, have questioned Moore’s motives.

“Senator Moore put his letter out and pasted it all over social media and did interview after interview while using the issue to raise money online,” state Goodman said in a letter to his constituents.

“He never once called anyone in the Republican caucus to discuss his letter,” Goodman added. “I’ll be perfectly frank: I think what he is doing is disingenuous and I’m not going to purposely mislead y’all.”

Moore’s attacks have drawn interest outside of Georgia. He recently appeared on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, where he suggested the possibility that Trump’s indictment could lead to widespread violence.

“Do you want a civil war? I don’t want a civil war. I don’t want to have to draw my rifle,” Moore said on the podcast. “I want to make this problem go away with my legislative means of doing so.”

State Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch — who has suggested other ways to target Willis, such as hearings to investigate her use of public resources — said he has spoken repeatedly with Moore to “calm down” his belligerent language.

But Moore has done more than just talk.

After state Sens. Bo Hatchett and Shelly Echols issued a joint statement criticizing Moore’s call, they said he targeted them with robocalls, texts and emails.

“It’s a horrible abuse of power. A violation of Colton Moore’s oath of office,” Hatchett said. “He’s using the money he steals from conservatives to attack fellow Republicans — doing nothing but helping the Democrats across the state and putting his conservative colleagues in danger.”

Georgia election officials praise data organization other GOP-led states quit

Nine Republican-led states have ceased their participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, but you can count the people who maintain Georgia’s voter rolls among its fans.

They say data from ERIC — which now serves 24 states, sharing information such as where voters have moved or died — led to 432,000 Georgia voter registrations being canceled or made inactive over the past two years.

State election officials say Georgia’s voter registration list is more up to date because of ERIC. Cutting the number of outdated names on the voter rolls reduces the possibility of election fraud, which is rare in Georgia.

“ERIC remains the only large-scale list maintenance tool available to identify voters who have moved out of state and anyone who might fraudulently vote in two ERIC-member states in a general election,” said Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “ERIC is valuable for both list maintenance and election security.”

Here’s how Georgia used information from ERIC during its first two full years as a member:

  • 305,110 registrations were made inactive, a step toward their eventual cancellation, because of ERIC’s cross-state data and change-of-address information from the U.S. Postal Service. Under federal law, these registrations could be removed in 2025 if voters don’t participate in elections before then.
  • 104,005 registrations were canceled for voters who moved to another ERIC state, according to voter registration and driver’s license data.
  • 22,806 registrations were canceled for people ERIC identified as deceased. ERIC provides death records from the Social Security Administration, supplementing state vital records.

ERIC, however, has drawn criticism from some conservatives over its bylaws and perceived biases.

States that withdrew from ERIC — including Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas — have objected to requirements that they send letters to eligible but unregistered residents, notifying them that they can sign up to vote. They’ve also cited concerns about data security and transparency when sharing voter information among states.

Robert Popper, election director for the conservative organization Judicial Watch, also faults ERIC for barring states from providing information about voters’ citizenship status. Noncitizens aren’t allowed to vote in Georgia, but a few cities across the country have permitted them to participate in local elections.

“Could it be that some part of the mission is being accomplished by ERIC? It could, but it could be done better by an institution that doesn’t have those biases,” Popper said. “I understand the value of having voter rolls you can compare, but ERIC seems to be throwing away what could be a valuable tool for the purpose of a lot of, frankly, silly political fighting.”

The Republican states that have left ERIC have said they want to find a replacement, but none exists so far.

Chair of State Election Board steps down

State Election Board Chair Bill Duffey has resigned, clearing the way for a new leader to oversee the panel that sets voting rules and investigates election fraud allegations as the 2024 presidential campaign begins.

“Now that a new board structure is in place, it is important to name the next chair in sufficient time for that person to continue to prepare for the 2024 election cycle. ... It has been an honor to work to preserve the integrity and fairness of the state’s election process,” Duffey wrote in a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp dated July 18.

The governor named Duffey, a former federal judge and U.S. attorney, to head the panel in June 2022, and his term was a busy one.

Under Duffey’s leadership, the board handled many allegations of fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

The board — made up of four Republicans, including Duffey, and one Democrat — voted to dismiss claims of illegal ballot collection raised in the movie “2000 Mules,” sued the conservative group True the Vote for its unwillingness to disclose information to back up the film’s allegations, held public hearings on election security and rejected a state takeover of Fulton County’s elections board.

The board did find Fulton County made numerous mistakes during an audit of the 2020 presidential election, and it also cleared a political action committee of wrongdoing when it gave away $25 gift cards at events promoting Republican Herschel Walker’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

Kemp announced Duffey’s resignation after a State Election Board meeting in August where he faced criticism from conservatives who attacked his prayer — which recognized Christian, Jewish and Muslim beliefs in God — at the beginning of the meeting.

State Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, was among a group of legislators who have reported they were recently the target of harassing behavior. Burns said he received a letter that had writing on the envelope that “made it obvious” it contained terroristic threats to local law enforcement.(Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

GBI director addresses threats to officials

GBI Director Chris Hosey, noting an “increased threat rhetoric that has been geared toward state and local officials” following the Fulton County indictment of former President Donald Trump, has urged state lawmakers by letter to report suspicious activity.

Several legislators have reported they were recently the target of harassing behavior.

State Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, revealed details about a letter he recently received. In a social media post, Burns said writing on the envelope “made it obvious” that the letter contained terroristic threats.

“I have requested local law enforcement to work with the state authorities to open the letter, review its contents and take appropriate action against the sender and any other parties involved in this despicable act,” he wrote on social media.

State Sen. Jason Esteves, D-Atlanta, said he’s received strange phone calls and unrequested pizza deliveries.

“It’s a bit disconcerting that these bad actors are essentially telling me that they have my personal information,” Esteves said. “In 10 years of public service, it’s never happened to this degree. Nevertheless, my work continues.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics saying U.S,. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, has violated House rules by sponsoring legislation that could have an impact on the business at the gun stores he owns. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Complaint: Clyde sponsored legislation that would help his business

A government watchdog group says U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, let his private business mix with his public service.

Clyde owns gun stores in Athens and Warner Robins called Clyde Armory.

He also sponsored legislation to reverse federal restrictions on pistol braces, which allow handguns to be fired like rifles. Clyde Armory sells pistol braces.

That’s a violation of the U.S. House’s rules about sponsoring legislation or using committee hearings and other public meetings that could benefit a congressman financially, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington alleges in its complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics.

CREW is seeking an investigation.

“Clyde’s financial interests in this matter mean we can’t help but ask whether he is prioritizing his own profits over public service and public safety,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

Clyde’s financial disclosures show he earned between $1.25 million and $7.1 million in income from his stores in 2021 and 2022. Members of Congress are only required to list assets within broad ranges, making it impossible to pinpoint the exact income Clyde has received.

The congressman’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the complaint by CREW. The Office of Congressional Ethics generally does not publicly disclose its investigations unless a referral is made to the Committee on Ethics, which is made up of members of Congress.

Clyde’s support for pistol braces is not the only thing that has drawn scrutiny.

The New York Times recently reported that in April, Clyde criticized a government monitoring program that requires oversight for gun stores found to have sold a large number of firearms later traced to crimes. What Clyde didn’t say at the time was that his Athens store was monitored under that program in 2020 and 2021.

In a statement to the Times, Clyde said he felt the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was unfairly using crime-tracing data to target individual firearm sellers or federal firearms licensees.

“Firearm traces cause a significant administrative burden for every (federal firearms licensee), and so should rightly be reserved only for open criminal investigations,” he told the Times. “Yet in reviewing the trace codes provided by the A.T.F., tens of thousands of traces appear to have nothing to do with an open criminal investigation.”

A few weeks after the hearing, according to the Times, the House Appropriations Committee — a panel Clyde sits on — proposed withholding funding for the monitoring program that he criticized until the criteria was changed to make it more difficult to place sellers under watch.