Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors [and Blatant Government Corruption]
Sept. 8, 2007
When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved implanting microchips in humans, the manufacturer said it would save lives, letting doctors scan
the tiny transponders to access patients' medical records almost instantly. The FDA found "reasonable assurance" the device was safe, and a
sub-agency even called it one of 2005's top "innovative technologies."
But neither the company nor the regulators publicly mentioned this: A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated
that chip implants had "induced" malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats.
Leading cancer specialists reviewed the research for The Associated Press and, while cautioning that animal test results do not necessarily apply to
humans, said the findings troubled them. Some said they would not allow family members to receive implants, and all urged further research before the
glass-encased transponders are widely implanted in people.
The VeriChip company sees a target market of 45 million Americans for its medical monitoring chips insists the devices are safe as does its parent
company, Applied Digital Solutions, of Delray Beach, Fla.
Did the agency [FDA] know of the tumor findings before approving the chip implants? The FDA declined repeated AP requests to specify what studies it
The FDA is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, which, at the time of VeriChip's approval, was headed by Tommy Thompson. Two
weeks after the device's approval took effect on Jan. 10, 2005, Thompson left his Cabinet post, and within five months was a board member of VeriChip
Corp. and Applied Digital Solutions. He was compensated in cash and stock options.
Thompson, until recently a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, says he had no personal relationship with the company as the
VeriChip was being evaluated, nor did he play any role in FDA's approval process of the RFID tag.
"I didn't even know VeriChip before I stepped down from the Department of Health and Human Services," he said in a telephone interview.
Before microchips are implanted on a large scale in humans, Dr. Robert Benezra, head of the Cancer Biology Genetics Program at the Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said testing should be done on larger animals, such as dogs or monkeys. "I mean, these are bad diseases.
They are life-threatening. And given the preliminary animal data, it looks to me that there's definitely cause for concern."
Dr. George Demetri, director of the Center for Sarcoma and Bone Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, agreed. Even though the tumor
incidences were "reasonably small," in his view, the research underscored "certainly real risks" in RFID implants.
In humans, sarcomas, which strike connective tissues, can range from the highly curable to "tumors that are incredibly aggressive and can kill people
in three to six months," he said.
Verichip is spending millions to assemble a national network of hospitals equipped to scan chipped patients.
And what of former HHS secretary Thompson?
When asked what role, if any, he [Thompson] played in VeriChip's approval, Thompson replied: "I had nothing to do with it. And if you look back at
my record, you will find that there has never been any improprieties whatsoever."
FDA's Watson said: "I have no recollection of him being involved in it at all." VeriChip Corp. declined comment.
[The truth is] Thompson vigorously campaigned for electronic medical records and healthcare technology both as governor of Wisconsin and at HHS. While
in President Bush's Cabinet, he formed a "medical innovation" task force that worked to partner FDA with companies developing medical information
At a "Medical Innovation Summit" on Oct. 20, 2004, Lester Crawford, the FDA's acting commissioner, thanked the secretary for getting the agency
"deeply involved in the use of new information technology to help prevent medication error." One notable example he cited: "the implantable chips
and scanners of the VeriChip system our agency approved last week."
After leaving the Cabinet and joining the company board, Thompson received options on 166,667 shares of VeriChip Corp. stock, and options on an
additional 100,000 shares of stock from its parent company, Applied Digital Solutions, according to SEC records. He also received $40,000 in cash in
2005 and again in 2006, the filings show.
The Project on Government Oversight called Thompson's actions "unacceptable" even though they did not violate what the independent watchdog group
calls weak conflict-of-interest laws.
"A decade ago, people would be embarrassed to cash in on their government connections. But now it's like the Wild West," said the group's
executive director, Danielle Brian.
Thompson is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a Washington law firm that was paid $1.2 million for legal services it provided the chip
maker in 2005 and 2006, according to SEC filings.
He stepped down as a VeriChip Corp. director in March to seek the GOP presidential nomination, and records show that the company gave his campaign
$7,400 before he bowed out of the race in August.