The FDA, Merck, and Whistleblowing

From FDA Whistleblower Says Agency Smeared Him Over His Vioxx Views

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration whistleblower who claimed Merck & Co.’s Vioxx painkiller caused 140,000 heart attacks and strokes testified that co-workers at his agency tried to damage his reputation.

“I experienced threats, intimidation and actually what, in my view, appears to have been a very organized and orchestrated campaign to smear and discredit me,” Dr. David Graham said in a May 9 videotaped testimony taken for Vioxx litigation. FDA officials worked “hand in glove” with Merck to tarnish him, Graham said according to a sealed transcript of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News.

Without prejudging the outcome of this case, it seems like another in the long list of stories about publically-minded whistleblowers who suffer a range of dangers and indignities as thanks.

This story is mostly about accusations of mistreatment of Dr. Graham by the FDA itself, but there seems to be little chance Merck will come out of this with its hands clean. All the charitable donations and other corporate social responsibility endeavours in the world won’t improve drug company reputations if they keep behaving disreputably in their core business practices.

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