The Associated Press (here via SFGate.com) reported that although Dr Andrew von Eschenbach, the new chief of the US Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) vowed during a congressional hearing to protect “the legal rights of every single employee within the FDA,” he seemed to have a rather harsh view of any FDA employee who might speak out publicly in opposition to the party line.
However, during a June 2006 meeting, von Eschenbach told a group of 30 to 40 employees that anyone who went against the “team” could end up being “traded,” according to accounts by agency whistle-blowers, including Dr. David Ross.
During Thursday’s hearing, von Eschenbach apologized to Ross, who now works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, if his comments had been misunderstood. The FDA head then told lawmakers he wanted to foster an environment — ‘if you will, a locker room’ — where people with diverse points of view and different perspectives could debate, vigorously and aggressively, any problems or issues.
Ross said in February that he left the FDA ‘rather than be silenced.’
Von Eschenbach went on to add: ‘When people don’t choose to participate in that and aren’t willing to be a part of that and simply express opinions independent of that, I don’t think that’s helpful to the process.’
Ross told reporters during a break in Thursday’s hearing that that qualifying statement ‘sends a very unfortunate message.’
Unfortunately, this is all too parallel with how dissent appears to be treated at the CDC (see post here). Again, in my humble, a scientifically-based agency whose task is to protect the health of the public requires the same sort of spirit of free enquiry that is part of the academic mission (but often only honored in the breach on campus). For the leadership of such an agency to regard independent opinios as not “helpful to the precess” is to acknowledge, once again, mission-hostile management.
Note: for the PharmaGossip take on this, go here.