FDA officials caught spying on agency scientists who contacted Congress

Fifty shades of FDA

Anyone who believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy might also believe the FDA protects consumers.

But no more.

For years, I’ve been telling you how utterly negligent the FDA is in protecting consumer safety. Again and again, the agency has blatantly betrayed the American people, kowtowing to industry. Safety concerns? Please! For FDA officials, safety is secondary, at best. They’ve sent that message loud and clear.

But now, a stunning bureaucratic blunder reveals the truth. And it’s appalling! But what I find most amazing is that the misconduct is much worse than even I thought it could be.

One false move

We actually saw this coming.

Earlier this year I told you about a survey of FDA scientists. The results were ugly. A large percentage said political and business interests guided agency decisions. And many said they had firsthand experience of interference in their work, but feared retribution if they shared their concerns about the agency.

That sounds like a tyrannical little empire where you do as you’re told or you get the axe. As it turns out, that’s EXACTLY what it is.

This week, the New York Times reports that agency officials installed spy software in laptops used by several FDA scientists. This surveillance collected more than 80,000 pages of documents. Some were messages to Congressmen, lawyers, oversight committees, and members of the media.

Over the past two years, the agency fired most of the secretly monitored scientists.

FDA officials absurdly claim that they were protecting the agency from negative publicity. Sounding like paranoid conspiracy theorists, they say scientists, Congressmen, journalists, and others were plotting to put the agency in a bad light.

Seriously! They think people will actually buy that nonsense!

The fired scientists tell a much different story. They say their dismissals were punishment for reporting mismanagement and safety abuses in medical reviews.

And right here is where this intrigue turns potentially dangerous for you and me — for everyone.

According to the Times, a long “bitter dispute” broke out when scientists questioned the review of medical devices. The scientists said that faulty reviews resulted in the approval of imaging devices that emitted “dangerous levels of radiation.”

Those devices include equipment for colonoscopies and mammograms.

And there you go. The agency gave business a big thumbs up, potentially exposing untold numbers of patients to DANGEROUS LEVELS OF RADIATION.

For years, I’ve been sharing with you the warnings from experts who say mammograms, “virtual colonoscopies,” and other imaging procedures put patients at risk. And all along, industry experts have assured us that those concerns were exaggerated.

And all along, these scientists were trying to get the word out.

Well, they got it out. But in a way they never expected.

In what will go down in FDA history as the most astonishing blunder, the agency outsourced the management of the huge bank of surveillance data. That’s right — they gave this extremely sensitive information to an outside contractor! And somehow, someone mistakenly placed that top-secret data on a public website.

Then someone stumbled on it. They reported it. And now they’ve revealed FDA officials for what they really are.

In a perfect world, this would lead to a complete reevaluation of these tests and the dangers of radiation.

But since we clearly can’t rely on the FDA, and this is anything but a perfect world, it’s up to us to sound the alarm of the dangers…and the cover-ups.

“In Vast Effort, F.D.A. Spied on E-Mails of Its Own Scientists” Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane, New York Times, 7/14/12, nytimes.com

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