Read all posts from October 2011

  • Watch Jay Cuetara, a cancer patient and advocate for drug shortage reform, speak about President Obama's executive action to reduce prescription drug shortages in America here

    President Obama today signed an executive order that directs the FDA to step up work to reduce the drug shortages and protect consumers. Jay Cuetara know just how important this is: in August, the center where he was receiving chemotherapy ran out of the drug being used to treat his cancer, which "can mean the difference between curing your cancer and not," the San Francisco man explained.

    The President's action means that drug companies will be required to let the FDA know earlier about the potential for drug shortages so that they can respond successfully. If we find out that prices are being driven up because shortages are being made worse by manipulations of companies or distributors, agencies will be empowered to stop those practices. And the FDA and the Department of Justice will be investigating any kinds of abuses that would lead to drug shortages.

    As the President said today, we can't wait for action. "We'll still be calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill that will provide additional tools to the FDA and others that can make a difference. But until they act, we will go ahead and move."

    Update: Check out a video from Bonnie Frawley, a pharmacy manager from Boston, who talks about what the President’s order will mean for hospitals.  

  • 650 percent

    The number of prescription drug shortages tripled between 2005 and 2010. Besides having serious consequences for people's health and well-being, drug shortages drive vendors to charge outragous prices for drugs that are normally affordable when in stock. One report found that price-gouging vendors mark up prices on drugs in short supply by 650 percent, on average.

    Another report about these “grey market vendors”—companies that inflate prices of drugs running in short supply—found that a leukemia drug whose typical contract price is about $12 per vial was being sold at $990 per vial. At the extreme, a drug used to treat high blood pressure that was normally priced at $25.90 was being sold at $1,200 due to a drug shortage.

    Only a very small number of drugs are affected by such shortages, but for many patients, changing medications may be the difference between getting healthier and getting sicker. Drugs affected by shortages include cancer treatments, anesthesia drugs, and other medications that are critical to the treatment and prevention of serious diseases and life-threatening conditions.

    Today, President Obama signed an Executive Order that will help prevent shortages that lead to this type of price gouging. The order directs the Food and Drug Administration to expand reporting about situations that might lead to drug shortages, and also to work with the Department of Justice to investigate illegal price gouging.

  • 20111031 We Can't Wait to Take Action on Drug Shortages

    President Barack Obama talks with the media before signing an Executive Order directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action to help further prevent and reduce prescription drug shortages, protect consumers and prevent price gouging, in the Oval Office, Oct. 31, 2011. From left: pharmacy manager Bonnie Frawley from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass.; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; cancer patient Jay Cuetara from San Francisco, Calif.; and FDA Commissioner Peggy Hamburg. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Sometimes the most important component of a patient’s treatment is the type of medication they receive and the consistency at which they receive it. For some Americans, a change in their treatment regimen or a substitution of a medication can seriously threaten their ability to get better.

    Between 2005 and 2010, the number of prescription drug shortages nearly tripled. While the FDA successfully prevented 137 drug shortages between January 1, 2010 and September 26, 2011, prescription drug shortages continue to threaten the health and safety of the American people. Today, too many people are waiting for their prescription to become available. Some are forced to switch from the medication they prefer, while others go without their medicine altogether. In some cases, drug shortages can even force people to stop a course of treatment before it finishes.

    We cannot control the factors that cause these drug shortages. But we are committed to doing our part to counteract them. Which is why President Obama signed an Executive Order today that will lead to earlier FDA notification of any impending shortages for certain prescription drugs. Early notification can help prevent a shortage from becoming a crisis by allowing hospitals, doctors and manufacturers to take action to ensure medications remain available.

    In addition, the President’s Executive Order will call on FDA to work with the Justice Department to examine whether “gray market” profiteers are responding to potential drug shortages either by hoarding medications or charging exorbitant prices. In recent months, we’ve heard reports of enormous markups such as a blood pressure medicine usually priced at $26 being sold for $1,200.  And under this Executive Order, the Justice Department will watch the market closely to make sure companies are not exploiting drug shortages to raise their profits at the expense of patients.

  • In 2009, President Obama challenged the Federal Government — the biggest energy consumer in the US economy, to become leaner, greener, and more efficient. Now in its second year, the White House Council on Environmental Quality is hosting the GreenGov Symposium to bring leaders in sustainability together under one roof.

    Join the White House and Mother Nature Network for a live panel discussion at 12:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, November 1st. Administration officials will answer questions submitted by the public on clean power, energy security, green fleets and more. Participants include:

    • Brian Deese, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council;
    • Michelle Moore, Federal Environmental Executive at the White House Council on Environmental Quality;
    • Jonathan Powers, Special Advisor on Energy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army;
    • Michael Robertson, U.S. General Services Administration Chief of Staff;
    • Rachel Tronstein, Clean Energy Advisor in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy; and
    • the panel will be moderated by Dr. Heidi Cullen, Director of communications and senior research scientist for Climate Central

    Right now, you can submit your questions for the panel:

    Then, tune in for the live event:

  • Watch the White House get a Halloween makeover here.

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed area students and the children of military families to the White House for the annual Halloween celebration and trick-or-treating on Saturday night.

    The President and First Lady handed out cookies, White House M&M's and dried fruit mix to trick-or-treaters at the North Portico of the White House. Check out these videos for the behind the scenes preparations and watch the main event with the President, Mrs Obama and all the costumed kids.

    Watch President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hand out treats to area students and the children of military families here

    The White House and the surrounding grounds were decorated in celebration of Halloween. As the trick-or-treaters made their way across the North Lawn to the North Portico they were entertained by the Marine Band playing Halloween music and spooked by in-costume actors from Washington-area theatres, brought together by theatreWashington.

    Check out the White House Halloween recipes below.

    The White House Sweet Dough Butter Cookie Recipe

    1 lb Sugar                                                      1 tsp Vanilla
    2 lbs Butter                                                    1 tsp Salt
    3 Eggs                                                            3 lbs All Purpose Flour
    Mix the butter and sugar till soft and well beaten. Then add eggs, vanilla, salt and half the flour. Beat on slow speed till mixed, then add the rest of the flour and mix until incorporated.

    Push flat onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate overnight. Roll out to one quarter inch thick and cut out cookie shapes with cookie cutter.

    Bake at 350F for 14 minutes and then allow to cool. 

    Make Your Own Dried Fruit Mix

    Dried Apples                                                             Dried Pineapple
    Dried Apricots                                                           Dried Papayas
    Dried Pears                                                              Dried Cherries
    Dried Blueberries                                                    Banana Chips

    Combine ingredients and serve.

    Download the recipes and make these treats yourself. (pdf)

  • President Obama says that we can’t wait for Congress to take action to grow the economy and create jobs -- and highlights actions he took to help families refinance their mortgages, put veterans to work, and lower the cost of student loans.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

    Watch President Obama's full remarks here

  • $1.1 billion

    Our economy is struggling. Our infrastructure is failing. Millions of Americans are out of work, many of them for longer than six months.

    That’s why President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act.

    The proposal includes funds to retain and hire teachers and keep first responders on the job. It invests $50 billion in infrastructure projects to modernize our roads, railways, and airports, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs. It offers tax breaks to small businesses to encourage hiring, and payroll tax cuts for 98 percent of businesses to put more money in everyone’s pockets. It will help connect unemployed workers with pathways back to work.

    We’ve created an interactive state-by-state map to show how the American Jobs Act will affect your state, including how many teaching jobs it will create, how much money will be invested in infrastructure projects, and the number of unemployed workers who will be connected with jobs. Check it out and see why we can’t wait to pass the American Jobs Act.

  • Office Hours with Mark Zuckerman 10/28

    On Friday October 28th, Mark Zuckerman tweets about college affordability and student loans for White House Office Hours (Photo by Mori Rothman)

    Today, Mark Zuckerman, Deputy Director of Domestic Policy Council, answered your questions on the President's announcement this week that will help make college more affordable and make it even easier for students to repay their federal student loans.

    Check out the full questions and answer session below, or over on Storify. Be sure to follow @WhiteHouse on Twitter for updates from the White House and for more chances to engage.

  • Watch West Wing Week here

    What happened this week on

    Helping Homeowners After Republicans in the Senate blocked the jobs bill yet again, President Obama hit the road with a new message,“We Can’t Wait.” The President decided to take executive action to create jobs and put money back in the pockets of Americans. While in Las Vegas, the President announced steps to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages, helping responsible borrowers with little or no equity in their homes take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates.

    Modifying Student Loans On a snowy day in Colorado, President Obama announced a new effort that will help borrowers better manage their student loan debt. He said he will move forward with A “Pay As You Earn” program that will reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million people. Starting in 2014, borrowers will be able to reduce their monthly student loan payments from 15 percent to 10 percent of their discretionary income.

    Hiring Veterans The Obama Administration challenged each of the 8,000 Community Health Centers around the country to hire one veteran, effectively opening up 8,000 jobs to our unemployed veterans. These health centers, which provide primary care services in typically underserved areas, are a major piece of President Obama’s historic health care reform law.

    We The People On Wednesday, President Obama’s top education advisors issued the first response to a petition created through the online petition site, We The People. The response addressed the petition “Taking Action to Reduce the Burden of Student Loan Debt”. The Administration recognized the high cost of education and moved forward to reduce monthly loan payments formore than1.6 million people. The online tool that allows Americans to voice their opinions to the government has had around755,000 people use the platform to create or sign more than 12,400 petitions.  

    Tonight Show The President flew to L.A. to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The two talked about Libya, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and reality television -- including a show on C-SPAN called ‘Congress.’


  • Watch the White House get a Halloween makeover here.

    Something spooky is happening at the White House. The grounds are covered in pumpkins, gourds, and cobwebs, and on Saturday, the North Portico will be lit orange for the evening. The President and Mrs. Obama will welcome trick-or-treaters from local schools, and children from military families are invited to attend a special Halloween party inside the White House.

    Trick-or-treaters will receive specially prepared treats that include a box of White House M&Ms, a White House sweet dough butter cookie baked by the White House Pastry Chef, and a serving of dried fruit.

  • In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis.  Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in July 2011.  This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to nearly 1.8 million records—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section

    Ed. Note: For more information, check out


  • While Republicans in Congress continue to block the American Jobs Act, President Obama is still finding new ways to boost the economy and put people back to work.

    This morning, the President signed two executive memorandums: one that would shorten the time it takes for companies to commercialize federal research, and another to launch BusinessUSA -- a website that will make it easier for companies to learn about federal resources for business and exports -- in early 2012.

    "With too many families struggling and too many businesses fighting to keep their doors open, we can't wait for Congress to take action," President Obama said in a statement.

    The first order will help speed up the time it takes for government research facilities to issue grants to start ups and give federal agencies more flexibility to partner with businesses.

    Every year, the government spends approximately $147 billion on research and development. This order from the President will help to ensure that money gets used even more efficiently.

    And by the way, we know the federal research grant process helps to spark entrepreneurship. Qualcomm, the communications giant; Symantech, the software security firm; and iRobot, maker of the Roomba and Packbot, all received federal agency support before becoming an industry leader.

    BusinessUSA will help companies of all sizes access the full range of government programs and services they need to compete, grow, and hire.

    Right now, a range of government websites offer resources and programs to support businesses, but navigating those sites and finding the information you need isn't easy.

    BusinessUSA will change that and offer a centralized location where an entrepreneur can come to access programs to grow their exports, for instance.

    Agencies across the federal government will also find ways to integrate BusinessUSA deeply into their websites, call centers, and field offices -- so that this new service becomes the primary way that companies get the information and support they need to grow and hire.

    The President is moving forward with BusinessUSA after calls for this type of reform from the President’s Jobs Council, the President’s Export Council, and businesses across the country.

    It will launch early next year.

    President Obama also can't wait for Congress to:

  • Yesterday morning, I visited a local grocery store as part of Fighting Poverty with Faith, an interfaith campaign co-sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Catholic Charities USA, and the National Council of Churches.

    While I was there, I had the chance to speak about the Obama Administration’s commitment to fighting hunger through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. For many of the 45 million Americans who rely on SNAP each year, these benefits are an economic lifeline. They can be the difference between going hungry, and putting food on the table.

    President Obama knows that many Americans were struggling to afford food before the economic crisis of 2008, and that the recession only made things worse. He believes that our government must follow what he has called, “a common creed.” I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper.

    That is why, when President Obama took office, he enhanced and expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The investments we made kept 3.9 million Americans, including 1.7 million children, above the poverty line in 2010. They prevented child hunger from rising, even as poverty and unemployment levels increased in the wake of the economic crisis.

  • It was late evening when the call came in to one of our law enforcement agencies. Nasdaq management was on the line asking for assistance with a security breach they had discovered. Within twenty-four hours, a joint Federal team was on the way to New York to provide support and begin the investigation. Shortly afterwards, I was in the White House Situation Room with other top officials to review what steps we needed to take to strengthen the security of our networks.

    This intrusion taught us a few lessons about the shortcomings of our current cybersecurity system. For instance, we greatly appreciate it when corporate leadership alerts the Federal government to serious intrusions, yet there is no general national requirement that companies do so. In cases of cybersecurity incidents that can damage our critical infrastructure such as the electric grid or our financial, transportation, and communication networks – damage that can put our national security, public safety, and economic prosperity at risk – the Federal government must know what is happening so that it can take steps to bring adversaries to justice and help protect Americans.

    Unfortunately, our critical infrastructure has suffered repeated cyber intrusions in the past year. Cybercrime, including online identity theft that hurts millions of Americans as well as the theft of intellectual property – American companies’ innovative ideas that are the lifeblood of our economic growth – continues to escalate. Many cyber intrusions could be prevented by implementing sound cybersecurity practices, but companies must be better motivated to make these investments. And while the Federal government continues to take actions to improve our nation’s cybersecurity under our existing legal frameworks, our laws need updating if we are to even the playing field with the cybercriminals.

  • Today, the President announced a new directive requiring all Federal research agencies to bolster efforts to transfer the results of  research from their lab to the marketplace.  These agencies will streamline their research partnership programs for small businesses, universities, and local communities.  They will also launch new programs designed to support regional innovation clusters, launch new public-private partnerships, and share Federal lab facilities with high-tech startups.  Each agency will be responsible for designing a five-year plan with tailored goals and metrics to measure progress.

  • This week, the President announced he'd keep his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq, honored the nation's top scientists and inventors, embarked on a three day Western swing to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, and announced major new executive actions that will help middle class families in this difficult economy.

    Watch West Wing Week here

  • The American Jobs Act is a big proposal that can be hard to visualize, so we wanted to put together a new tool to help show the impact.

    Our new map breaks down specific ways the President's plan helps to create jobs and put money back in families' pockets, state by state.

    If you wanted to see what a typical tax cut looks like for a family in Texas, it's right here: $1,460.

    Teacher jobs in North Carolina? 13,400.

    Money for roads and bridges in Colorado? $494.8 million.

    Take the time to dig in and learn how the American Jobs Act would help your state and community -- and share the map with those you know.


  • nine quarters of growth

    Today’s GDP report shows that the economy posted the ninth straight quarter of positive growth. Real GDP, the total amount of goods and services produced in the country, grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the third quarter of 2011.

    This good news is encouraging, but our economy isn’t growing fast enough. We’ve put 2.6 million people back to work in the last 19 months, but we have to do better to replace all the jobs lost during the recession. That’s why the President introduced the American Jobs Act, to put even more unemployed Americans back to work and further accelerate our economic recovery.

    The American Jobs Act will help keep teachers in classrooms and firefighters and police officers on the job. It will invest $50 billion in our nation’s infrastructure, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs modernizing roads, railways, and airports. The President’s proposal will also cut taxes for small businesses to encourage hiring and investment. We can’t wait any longer to restore our economy to its full potential.

  • Talk with Prime Minister Petr Necas of the Czech Republic

    President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Petr Necas of the Czech Republic, in the Oval Office, Oct. 27, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama’s meeting with Prime Minster Petr Necas of the Czech Republic came in the wake of an announcement that European leaders reached an agreement to cut Greek debt and solve the Eurozone crisis.

    Before his trip to the White House, Prime Minister Necas had been involved with those talks in Brussels.

    In a statement, President Obama pledged to support our allies Europe:

    We welcome the important decisions made last night by the European Union which lay a critical foundation for a comprehensive solution to the Eurozone crisis. We look forward to the full development and rapid implementation of their plan. We will continue to support the EU and our European allies in their efforts to address this crisis as we work together to sustain the global recovery and put our people back to work.

    Speaking to reporters with the prime minister, President Obama reiterated those remarks.

    "I think they made significant progress over the last week," he said. "The key now is just to make sure that it drives forward in an effective way.


  • This week, the President announced steps that will help make college more affordable and make it even easier for students to repay their federal student loans. Tomorrow, we’re holding a session of Office Hours on Twitter with Mark Zuckerman, Deputy Director of Domestic Policy Council, to answer your questions about the announcement.

    At 3:00 p.m. EDT, Mark will be on the @WHLive account to answer questions about why we can’t wait to help America’s graduates and the Administration’s commitment to making college more affordable.

    Here’s how it works:

    Don’t miss Office Hours at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, October 28th with Mark Zuckerman. For the latest news and more opportunities to engage, follow us @WhiteHouse on Twitter.