fdanulogo-300x126Critics are slamming the federal Food and Drug Administration for dropping the ball in informing the U.S. officials who run the Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ health programs about crucial regulatory decisions, leading the federal government apparently to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for patients to get a defective heart device and potentially to pay billions of dollars for a prescription medication targeted at Alzheimer’s but with questionable evidence of its effectiveness.

FDA officials insist that they acted in patients’ best interests when they posted on an agency website, along with thousands of other public communications, a warning letter issued to the maker of the HeartWare Ventricular Assist Device, or HVAD. That missive told the device maker HeartWare — and later its acquiring company Medtronic — that the FDA found serious problems with the HVAD tied to patient injuries and deaths.

The FDA eventually would amass “thousands of reports of suspicious deaths and injuries and more than a dozen high-risk safety alerts from the manufacturer,” ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative new site found. “One horrifying device failure after another” led HVAD’s maker to halt the manufacture of the supposed life-sustaining heart pump. The firm has agreed to a long-term plan to deal with the calamity of patients who now cannot have the defective device removed.