Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FDA criminal investigations chief resigns


The head of the Food and Drug Administration's criminal investigation unit is stepping down, months after the latest round of criticism directed at his department by congressional investigators.

Earlier this year the Government Accountability Office said that the FDA must exercise more oversight over Vermillion's unit, which has operated largely independent of agency leadership, despite growing into a $41 million operation with 230 staffers over the last decade. In 2008, House and Senate Republicans questioned the priorities of the criminal investigations unit, specifically its focus on drug abuse cases instead of broader misconduct by large companies.

"I hope that with new leadership, this office will contribute more to the FDA's overall mission of protecting public safety," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in a statement Tuesday evening. Grassley requested the GAO investigation of FDA's criminal investigation unit.

In September, Grassley brought to light additional complaints against Vermillion in a letter to the GAO.

Grassley said that an anonymous FDA whistleblower contacted his office complaining that the GAO's findings were "less than stellar" and did not include a number of questionable practices by Vermillion.
The whistleblower alleged that Vermillion directed that reports "be changed to sanitize them of derogatory information" about former colleagues from the Secret Service now working at the FDA.

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