Monday, August 13, 2012

Old Mystery Solved? Former FDA Reviewer Speaks Out About Intimidation, Retaliation and Marginalizing of Safety

At my Dec. 2005 post "Report: Life Science Manufacturers Adapt to Industry Transition" I wrote:

... The recognition of a gap in formally-trained medical informatics-trained personnel in the pharmaceutical industry [by Gartner Group] is welcome. For example, from my own experience:

I recall an interview I had last year with the head of the Drug Surveillance & Adverse Events department at Merck Research Labs in a rehire situation [after a 2003 layoff]. I came highly recommended by an Executive Director in the department, to whom I had shown my prior work. This included well-accepted, novel human-computer interaction designs I'd developed for use by busy biomedical researchers for a large clinical study in the Middle East, as well as my work modeling invasive cardiology and leading the development and implementation of a comprehensive information system to detect new device and treatment modality risks in a regional center performing more than 6,000 procedures/year. In addition, I'd worked with the wife of the Executive Director in years prior, when she ran the E.R. of the hospital where I was director of occupational medicine.

Despite all this in my favor, the Executive Director's boss, himself a former FDA adverse events official [a former deputy director of CDER’s office of drug safety, who'd recently moved to the pharma industry he once regulated - ed.], dismissed me in five minutes as I was showing him the cardiology project, saying flatly "we don't need a medical informatics person here." I had driven 80 miles to Rahway for this interview to save the executive a trip to Pennsylvania, where I was originally scheduled to come for the interview, since the executive's father was ill in the hospital. In an instance of profound social ineptness, my effort was not even acknowledged. Perhaps he was in a bad frame of mind, but the dismissal under the circumstances was all the more disappointing.

I recall this was one of the most puzzling hiring debacles I'd ever experienced, as all the senior people in his dept. had recommended he hire me - I was really only there for his approval and signoff - and the work I'd shown him had improved care, saved lives, and saved money.

I may not need to be puzzled any longer.  This story just appeared:

Former FDA Reviewer Speaks Out About Intimidation, Retaliation and Marginalizing of Safety
By Martha Rosenberg, Truthout
July 29, 2012

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is often accused of serving industry at the expense of consumers. But even FDA defenders are shocked by reports this week of an institutionalized FDA spying program on its own scientists, lawmakers, reporters and academics that included an enemies list of "actors" and collaborators

... Ronald Kavanagh [FDA drug reviewer from 1998 to 2008]:  ... In the Center for Drugs [Center for Drug Evaluation and Research or CDER], as in the Center for Devices, the honest employee fears the dishonest employee. There is also irrefutable evidence that managers at CDER have placed the nation at risk by corrupting the evaluation of drugs and by interfering with our ability to ensure the safety and efficacy of drug ... While I was at FDA, drug reviewers were clearly told not to question drug companies and that our job was to approve drugs.

Read the entire story at the link.  I won't cover it more here, except to say it's certainly possible to believe certain FDA officials don't want serious people around -- who in addition to being MD's can write serious software to detect drug and device problems -- whose work can get in the way of drug approvals.

-- SS


Steve Lucas said...

This is the Chicago way.

Steve Lucas

Steve Lucas said...

The apple does not fall far from the tree as termination is often an answer for those brave enough to question pharma.

Steve Lucas