Health Secretary Mike Leavitt agreed to show U.S. Food and Drug Administration documents to lawmakers in an effort to avert a threatened contempt citation.
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee can see disputed briefing papers about Sanofi-Aventis SA's blood-thinner Ketek in a "reading room" and talk to the FDA staff, Leavitt said in a letter to the panel distributed Friday by e-mail.
Committee members warned they would seek to hold Leavitt in contempt of Congress unless he gave them access to the documents that were used to prepare FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach for his testimony on Ketek during a committee hearing in March. The panel is investigating whether von Eschenbach gave misleading testimony on Ketek, which has been linked to fatal side effects.
"We appreciate your offer to continue to seek appropriate accommodation and, in response, are prepared to offer the Committee access to the briefing book in a reading room within Department facilities," Leavitt wrote in the letter. The FDA is part of the Health and Human Services Department.
Lawmakers, including top Republicans on the committee, told Leavitt in a Feb. 27 letter that he had until Friday to respond to their request after he failed to comply with a subpoena seeking the documents.
Leavitt originally cited a possible "chilling effect" as reason for withholding the documents, according to the committee's letter. Lawmakers told the secretary that wasn't a legitimate reason for ignoring the subpoena.