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FDA Spreads the Surveillance Bug

Tuesday July 17th, 2012   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 1:57pm PDT   •  

The headquarters of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is shown in Silver Spring near Washington

The homepage of the FDA says: U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Protecting and Promoting Your Health. In that quest, the massive federal agency regulates and supervises food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, and much more. FDA bosses also find the time to conduct surveillance against scientists critical of FDA policies and procedures.

According to the New York Times, in 2010 the FDA launched a broad campaign to counter outside agency critics along with FDA scientists, employees, researchers and even journalists. The FDA, currently headed by Margaret Hamburg, deployed spy software that captured images from scientists’ computers. The agency said in a statement the surveillance was with “consistent with FDA policy” but the campaign has alarmed White House officials who warned against intimidation of whistle-blowers.

“Government whistleblowers are often the most important source of information exposing government misconduct, corruption and the waste of taxpayer money,” said Stephen M. Kohn of the National Whistleblower Center, decrying the FDA tactics in a July 14 statement. Four scientists whose emails were intercepted have filed a lawsuit. The surveillance campaign, however, is not the only case of heavy-handed tactics by federal agency. According to NaturalNews, the FDA has conducted “armed, SWAT-style raids on farmers, cancer treatment pioneers and dietary supplement manufacturers.” FDA inefficiency, meanwhile, has led to shortages of critical medicines decried by President Obama himself as “severe and frequent.”

A recent study notes that the number of times drugs were in short supply almost tripled from 61 in 2005 to 178 in 2010 and reached more than 250 in 2011. President Obama wants the FDA to mandate that drug manufacturers predict a shortage six months in advance. The study’s author, warns that “severe and frequent shortages that have occurred on the watch of an unreformed government bureaucracy will not be cured by giving that same bureaucracy more power or money.”

But more power seems to be the trend. The FDA has 225 field offices and since 2008 the U.S. federal agency has been expanding into China, India, Europe and Latin America through its “Beyond our Borders” initiative.

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July 2012