Freelance reporter fronts for PI firm in investigation of FDA members
Freedom of Information requests often produce a mixed bag of results. More often than not you end up pulling out your hair trying to read through blacked out pages or else the information is of the mundane variety. Something that I didn’t now about these requests is that journalists sometimes can get a quicker response to their FOIA requests than say … private investigation firms.
At least that appears to be the case of a couple of FDA high ranking officials who apparently we being investigated by private investigation firm Kroll who had been hired by a drug company, Amphastar Pharaceuticals. The company was concerned that two FDA officials who were over-seeing the drug approval process involved with one of Amphastar’s generic prescription drugs.
This is of itself it seems is nothing new in the high stakes game of pharmaceutical drugs but what is troubling is that also hired the services of a freelance reporter, Melanie Haiken of San Fransisco, to obtain FDA information about Janet Woodcock and Moheb Nasr using FOIA requests. Woodcock and Nasr are Director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Director of FDA’s Office of New Drug Quality Assessment respectively.
The reason Kroll hired Haiken was so that she could use her credentials as a journalist to request Woodcock’s e-mails, phone records, voice mails, calendars and expense reports – all without mentioning that she was payed by a private investigation firm.
“I am making this request as a journalist and this information is of timely value,” Melanie Haiken, a San Francisco-based freelance reporter, wrote to the FDA. “As a journalist, I am primarily engaged in disseminating information.”
Haiken did not disclose that she was working for the private investigators at the time. In an e-mail explaining its fees, Kroll told Amphastar that the expenses related to the FOIA covered “the cost of the person we are using to make the requests untraceable to you, the client.”
And they call the ethics of bloggers into question.