USDA Probes Alleged Misuse Of Veterinary Credentials

USDA Probes Alleged Misuse of Veterinary CredentialsUSDA Probes Alleged Misuse of Veterinary CredentialsnewslinePosted: Thursday, February 5, 2009, 5:10 p.m., EST

USDA research lab, Ames IowaThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has placed 19 employees from its laboratories in Ames, Iowa, on administrative leave after allegations that some used veterinary credentials to purchase medications for human use  to provide  other employees  with low-cost prescription drugs. 

None of the drugs were narcotics, said USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, DVM. They were primarily antibiotics, pain relievers such as prescription ibuprofen, and blood pressure medications, he said.

The USDA  did not release the names of the employees, noting that it is possible that more will be indentified  in the investigation.

In a statement released Feb. 4, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called it “a very serious situation that requires immediate and decisive action.”

Vilsack said accountability is of the utmost importance and that he has commissioned two third-party reviews—one of the laboratory processes at the Ames facility and the other of the management process.

“The laboratory review has been completed, and although we are still in the process of thoroughly evaluating the results, we are gratified to see that it affirmed the laboratory is generally functioning very well,” Vilsack said. “The management review, which we expect will provide insight regarding how USDA can prevent such situations from recurring, is ready to commence.”

Both reviews will be made available to the public when complete.

Three USDA laboratories  are located in Ames. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories and the Center for Veterinary Biologics are part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the National Animal Disease Center is part of the Agricultural Research Service.

Acting APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea said Feb.4 that the laboratories’ work has not been compromised.

“We want to stress that, while we are extremely concerned with the conduct demonstrated at Ames, there is no evidence any test results or other official laboratory activities were compromised in any way or caused any animal health risk,” Shea said. “APHIS is dedicated to protecting American agriculture, and this investigation and its results will by no means prevent us from our critical mission of ensuring animal and plant health.”

Dr. Clifford said that because of the pending investigation, no other information can be released at this time. However, he reiterated that the USDA is taking this seriously and that there is no evidence that work performed at the laboratories has been compromised.

No other information was released.

The American Veterinary Medical Association published a statement Feb. 5 saying it supports the investigation.

“Although, it is disappointing to hear of any potential abuse of veterinary medical licenses and the public trust, we applaud Secretary Vilsack, APHIS and the Office of the Inspector General on their thorough and rapid action to investigate alleged improper conduct,” said Ron DeHaven, DVM, chief executive officer of AVMA.

“All veterinarians are expected to adhere to a strict professional code of veterinary medical ethics. We are confident that Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and APHIS leadership will ensure that the vital work of the National Veterinary Services Laboratories will continue uninterrupted and that any impropriety will be dealt with appropriately.” <HOME>

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has placed 19 employees from its laboratories in Ames, Iowa, on administrative leave after allegations that some used veterinary credentials to purchase medications for human use to provide other employees with low-cost prescription drugs.The U.S. Department of Agriculture has placed 19 employees from its laboratories in Ames, Iowa, on administrative leave after allegations that some used veterinary credentials to purchase medications for human use to provide other employees with low-cost prescription drugs.USDA, veterinary, American Veterinary Medical Association, agriculture, veterinarians

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