Frank Torti’s email, which was sent to all US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employees and leaked on the internet, warned that disclosing information risked disciplinary sanctions, criminal liability and the agency being sued for damages.
This has led to a written response by Senator Chuck Grassley who positions himself as “an outspoken advocate for whistleblowers” and is concerned the acting Commissioner’s email could stop FDA employees speaking out.
In particular Grassley is worried by the timing of the email, which comes after the release of internal documents that: “Seem to suggest that lobbying may have influenced the decision in a device approval [and] that a physician was removed for inappropriate reasons from a recent safety panel”.
Without whistleblowers Grassley believes this information would have remained concealed from Congress and is keen that Torti sends another email to clarify the rights of whistleblowers to FDA staff.
In particular Grassley requests that Torti communicates that: “FDA employees have the right to talk to Congress and to provide Congress with information free and clear of agency influence. Further, these employees have the right to be free from fear of retaliation or reprisal.”
Grassley also highlights the laws that are in place for those that attempt to hinder this process, which extends to “any threatening letter or communication influences” and can result in up to five years in jail.