What do FDA commish Andy von Eschenbach and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have in common besides being "loyal Bushies?"
Both believe it is within their right to fire employees for no other good reason than they are not "team players."
More on that below. But, first, a little history.
Dr. von Eschenbach's remarks about dissent within the FDA at a recent Center for Medicine and the Public Interest (CMPI) conference was quoted in the The Star-Ledger of New Jersey:
He said he is committed to insuring all different points of view within the agency are heard and part of the deliberative process. But he added he won't tolerate whistleblowers who go outside the agency just because they disagree with a final outcome.Now, according the Star-Ledger Pharmalot Blog, von Eschenbach claims "My remarks did not in any way shape or form address whistleblowers." This under oath a couple of days ago in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
"The people have to understand to go outside that process is not constructive. It is actually destructive," von Eschenbach said. (See "Ex-FDA chief: Pharma goal at odds with safety")
The Star-Ledger stands by its reporting and invites readers to hear the audio recording of von Eschenbach's CMPI presentation on the CMPI Web site. "Not so fast, Andy," says Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot. "You were quoted correctly. But don't take our word for it. Go to the web site for the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and listen for yourself."
I tried to locate the audio on the CMPI site, but could find neither hide nor hair of it there.
Could it be that CMPI -- the same folks that bring us stridently pro-industry Drug Wonks blog (see "Drug Wonks Are PR Wonks") -- expunged von Eschenbach's presentation from its Web site? If so, CPMI no doubt acted on its own, not under instructions from von Eschenbach.
Or did it? We'll never know.
OK, so this is a bit suspicious. Yet, there's more evidence that von Eschenbach is taking lessons on handling employees from the same source that instructed Gonzales.
Will Drug Safety "Take One for the Team?"
According to the Pharmalot blog, last June von Eschenbach told a group of agency employees that he expects "team players" who can be "traded" if they don't cooperate. "Committee members had to remind Andy that it's illegal to interfere or retaliate against employees who share info with Congress."
It's unfortunate that von Eschenbach wants a team that is cooperative rather than one that offers debate and checks and balances. Can such a homogeneous "cooperative team" both approve drugs for marketing and then be expected to do the right thing to protect us from unsafe drugs? Or will drug safety "take one for the team?"
For more on this story, see "FDA chief vows to defend whistle-blowers."