Last month, Joe Barton, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee,demanded info that would explain a drop in arrests and convictions by the Office of Criminal Investigations. Now, Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, wants to know if cases were dropped due to influence from other FDA officials, The Wall Street Journal writes.
The moves follow a report released last winter by House Republicans showing the FDA isn’t bouncing researchers and drugmakers that commit crimes when seeking approval for meds. Grassley cites the scandal over the Sanofi-Aventis antibiotic, Ketek.
At issue is concern that OCI is, instead, overly emphasizing drug-abuse cases, such as OxyContin, and its efforts often duplicate probes by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Journal notes that OCI's longtime director, former Secret Service agent Terry Vermillion, whose salary hit $198,000 in fiscal 2006, has hired many former police officers, FBI and Secret Service agents.
OCI, which the paper notes has operated largely autonomously, saw its budget doubled to $42.8 million from fiscal 2000 to fiscal 2009, even as FDA officials were conceding that funds for maintaining quality of imported drugs were inadequate. During that period, the number of OCI investigators rose nearly 50 percent, the paper adds.
The FDA says unpublished stats for this year show arrests moving upward. Margaret Glavin, the FDA associate counsel for regulatory affairs, argues OCI's drug-abuse cases are "very much a part of our mission." She disputes Barton's concerns about the drop in productivity, saying unpublished numbers for fiscal 2007 are "trending upward," with 501 arrests and 350 convictions, she tells the Journal.