Drug company ok’d spying on FDA officials

Where does spying fit in a drug company budget? Isn’t Big Pharma always complaining that the cost of their research warrants high drug prices? Is spying part of the research?

For one company it is. Politico broke the story that Amphastar Pharmaceuticals hired private investigators to gather information on high-ranking officials at the Food and Drug Administration in 2008. The company claims it was looking for evidence of any collusion between the officials and a rival company, during the approval process for an Amphastar-developed blood-clotting drug.

The story caught the attention of Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus who voiced outrage. “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,” Baucus told Politico. (Maybe he’s looking for a way to look tough on drug companies after the heavy criticism he came under for his role during the torturous health care debate?)

According to documents obtained by the Senate Finance Committee, the PI’s plan was to look into an FDA official’s “and her relatives and friends.” Plus, her “financial status and lifestyle change since 2004; any entities … that [she], her relatives or friends, partially own or are affiliated with in the U.S.” The firm conducted a similar investigation into the other official’s life, but in both cases, found nothing. (Not that it would be beyond belief that FDA officials collude with drug companies. In 1989, three FDA employees were indicted for taking bribes from drug companies.)

Still the whole bizarre story points to the sickness in the health industry that puts profits before people’s needs.

Photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/ / CC BY 2.0