FDA investigations chief to exit after criticism

The FDA's criminal-investigations chief is stepping down next month in the wake of criticism from government watchdogs and congressional investigators. Terry Vermillion, who heads up the FDA Office of Criminal Investigation, announced his retirement to agency staff on Tuesday, Pharmalot reports.

It hasn't been a good year for Vermillion. Early on, the Government Accountability Office criticized the FDA for laissez-faire oversight of his unit, saying that the agency had allowed Vermillion to run the investigations office almost completely independently, even though both its workforce and its funding had grown significantly over the previous 10 years. That judgment came on top of questions from Republican lawmakers, who wondered why the office focused on drug abuse cases rather than on drugmakers' misbehavior.

Then, Sen. Charles Grassley wrote the GAO in September to charge that its report on Vermillion's office didn't go far enough. Citing a whistleblower from within FDA, Grassley said Vermillion misused agency staff for personal purposes. And, as the Associated Press reports, the whistleblower said Vermillion often supervised his department from his home in coastal Virginia, and he "sanitized" reports about FDA staffers he'd worked with previously at the Secret Service.

Vermillion didn't comment, but the FDA did confirm his impending departure. "We appreciate Terry's years of public service and wish him well in retirement," FDA Associate Commissioner Beth Martino told the AP.

- read the Pharmalot post
- see the AP story