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A chemist working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and his son have been charged with insider trading in a case that could have alarming implications for public health.

The "Securities and Exchange Commission charged Cheng Yi Liang, 57, and his son Andrew, 25, with illegally trading in advance of at least 27 public announcements about 19 publicly held companies," Reuters reports. Those suspect trades alledgedly made the men more than $3.6 million. The SEC filed its complaint in federal court in Maryland.(MD).

Insider trading, if proved, is not only illegal but it raises questions about the safety of the drugs we use. If chemists are using information to maximize profit they are clearly not putting the welfare of the public first.They are putting personal profit before an impartial evaluation of the safety of drugs we use every day.

The Liangs also face U.S. Justice Department charges of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud related to $2.27 million in trades of stock for five drug companies over the past four years.

Cases like this where officials in positions of responsibility use their knowledge to profit can undermine public confidence in the system. In January, the Daily Press reported on a Virginia (VA) special agent with the Norfolk office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who is under investigation following allegations he stole ATF owned cigarettes.

But when the issue is prescription drugs the risks can be higher. We recently highlighted how after more than 50 years on the market, the drug Darvon (propoxyphene) was pulled from the U.S. market. Why? Because studies have shown that using the medication ncreases the risk of heart arrhythmias, even in patients who do not have heart problems.

Some estimate that Darvon, most recently marketed by Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, has killed at least 1,000 people in the United States.

We have also highlighted how a potentially perilous painkiller was being used at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Hampton, Virginia. Even so-called "bath salts" have been highlighted as a risk, causing hallucinations and deaths.

To say that this insider trading charge against the FDA chemist can undermine public confidence in the FDA approval process of new drugs is a huge understatement.


About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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