Back in 2008, private eyes working for Amphastar Pharmaceuticals gathered info about Janet Woodcock, who heads the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, collecting details about her husband, two daughters, and in-laws, and retracing her steps on a business trip she took to Thailand, writesPolitico, which essentially rehashes and fleshes out a juicy piece in The Wall Street Journal last fall ( see here).
Amphastar paid more than $100,000 to Kroll for the low down. At one point, the investigators hired a freelance reporter to file Freedom of Information Act requests, using her status as a journalist to request Woodcock’s emails, phone records, voicemails, calendar and expense reports, among other documents – without mentioning that she was being paid for her efforts by a private investigative firm. (OUR TWO CENTS: Really? That's not kosher).
Why the fuss? Amphastar worried the FDA wouldn't allow it to market a generic version of the Heparin blood thinner, a market worth more than $3 billion. So Ahphastar turned to Kroll after becoming frustrated the FDA was delaying. The company also worried the FDA was favoring a competitor, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, and suspected Woodcock was somehow allied with Momenta, Politico writes. However, we should note the FDA legal counsel recently declared there was no conflict (look here).
Kroll also investigated Moheb Nasr, director of the FDA’s Office of New Drug Quality Assessment, creating a file included the price he paid for his home, and details of his education and professional background. Amphastar says the investigation was done in order to find out if Woodcock or Nasr were unfairly favoring a competitor in the drug approval process, and that it did nothing wrong.
“I feel like as a citizen you have a right to question your government and a right to look a at public information. There was no impropriety here,” Amphastar general counsel Jason Shandell tells Politico, adding that the investigation was limited to public records, database searches and other information available to the general public.
The case has greatly interested the Senate Finance Committee, whose chairman Max Baucus calls this “an outrage,” and demanded Kroll tell him how often private detectives target public officials. “Pharmaceutical companies should be focusing on getting their drugs approved based on health research and science rather than wasting their resources hiring private investigators to snoop around the lives of FDA regulators and their families,” he tells Politico.