Nineteen government employees are on paid administrative leave
after allegations surfaced that some used veterinary medical
credentials to purchase low-cost medications for their personal use and
The names of those involved were not released.
The crackdown stems from a United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) investigation
conducted at its laboratories in Ames, Iowa.
“This is a very
serious situation that requires immediate and decisive action,”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says in a statement
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
issued a statement
today in support of the investigation, calling the
alleged abuse of veterinary licenses “disheartening.”
veterinarians are expected to adhere to a strict professional code of
ethics,” says Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA's chief executive officer.
and others in USDA offices did not return interview requests by press
time, but in an exchange with the Associated Press, he maintains that
while there is no evidence that the alleged activity interfered with
work in the lab, he wants to “send a clear signal” that such actions
will not be tolerated.
Further action in the case hinges on a
review of the evidence by the Office of the Inspector General. More
employees could be identified, the USDA statement says.
is of the utmost importance in our laboratories, which are
internationally renowned,” Vilsack says. To reaffirm the public’s
trust, USDA-APHIS commissioned two third-party reviews, one of the
laboratory processes and the other of management processes at Ames
facilities. The laboratory review is complete, but results are still
being evaluated, the statement explains. The management review,
scheduled to soon commence, is expected to suggest corrective actions.
900 employees work in three USDA laboratories on the Ames campus. While
it is unclear which laboratories housed the workers, only the National
Veterinary Services Laboratory and the Center for Veterinary Biologics
are part of APHIS. The National Animal Disease Center is a part of the
Agricultural Research Service.
“As I said upon arriving at USDA,
I have made it a priority to support President Obama’s charge to
establish and adhere to rigorous ethical standards that meet the
expectations of U.S. citizens and taxpayers. I am committed to this
charge and with the support and hard work of all USDA employees, I am
confident that we will uphold the American people's trust,” Vilsack
says in the statement.
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