APHIS workers investigated for improper use of veterinary credentials

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Feb 05, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Ames, Iowa -- Employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are under investigation after allegedly using veterinary credentials to purchase medications for human use.

The Office of Inspector General recently began looking into the actions of 19 employees at the USDA's laboratories in Ames, Iowa, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The employees either participated in the alleged improper conduct or had knowledge of it, officials say.

All are on administrative leave until the probe is completed.

The USDA is not yet releasing the names or titles of the workers, and says still others may be identified.

"Accountability is of the utmost importance in our laboratories, which are internationally renowned," Vilsack says. "In an effort to be fully transparent and reaffirm the trust of the American public, our stakeholders and trading partners, we have commissioned two third-party reviews - one of the laboratory processes at the Ames facility and the other of the management processes. 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 and successfully fulfilling its responsibilities. The management review, which we expect will provide insight regarding how USDA can prevent such situations from recurring, is ready to commence."

Dr. Ron DeHaven, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) chief executive officer and former head of APHIS, said he was disappointed to hear of the potential abuse of veterinary medical licenses.

"All veterinarians are expected to adhere to a strict professional code of veterinary medical ethics," DeHaven says. "We are confident that 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."