His work has prompted major public reforms, including a ban in 2005 of drug company payments to government scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Willman’s investigative reports in the Los Angeles Times also led to the March 2000 safety withdrawal of Rezulin, a Type 2 Diabetes drug that grossed more than $2 billion in sales.
Earlier in his career, Willman covered local, state and national politics, including presidential campaigns in 1980, 1984 and 1988.
Willman has worked from Washington D.C. and throughout California. His investigative reports in the 1990s exposed defective construction within tunnels of the Los Angeles subway and at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, prompting structural overhauls. All repairs were made at the expense of the contractors responsible for the defective work. He currently resides in Bethesda, Maryland.
Willman's 2011 book The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War (Bantam Books) concerns the 2001 anthrax letter attacks in the US and the subsequent media coverage and FBI investigation.
In awarding Willman the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, the organization cited "his pioneering expose of seven unsafe prescription drugs that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and an analysis of the policy reforms that had reduced the agency’s effectiveness."
In 2004, Willman won the Worth Bingham Prize, awarded for "investigative reporting of stories of national significance where the public interest is ill-served." Willman had brought to light drug company payments—including consulting fees and awards of stock and stock options—to senior scientists at the National Institutes of Health. When he announced a ban of such future payments, NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., credited Willman’s reports in the Los Angeles Times.
Other honors he has won include the George Polk Award (1997) and the medal award of Investigative Reporters and Editors (1997, 1999). Willman was the first recipient of Harvard University’s David Nyhan Prize for Political Journalism (2005). His reporting on the investigation of the anthrax mailings won the Scripps Howard Foundation’s Raymond Clapper award as the year’s best Washington-based coverage (2009).
- "David Willman | UCLA Anderson School of Management". Anderson.ucla.edu. Archived from the original on 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- Temple-Raston, Dina, "Mad Scientist Hides In Plain Sight", Washington Post, 14 August 2011, p. B6.
- "The Pulitzer Prizes | Biography". Pulitzer.org. 1956-10-18. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- "Scripps Howard Foundation Announces National Journalism Awards Winners". News Release, Scripps Howard Foundation, March 13, 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
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