Scientists with financial ties to drug makers or other medical companies would be prohibited from serving on federal advisory committees charged with reviewing the safety of drugs, if reform legislation offered by Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) becomes law. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which monitors scientists' ties to the drug, food, chemical, and other industries, announced its support for the legislation, which would also separate the drug-safety function of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from the new-drug-approval function. The FDA Improvement Act would also make the agency less reliant on fees from drug companies to fund its work.
Research conducted by CSPI's Integrity in Science Project revealed that 10 of 32 scientists on a February advisory panel looking into the safety of the arthritis pain killers known as Cox-2 inhibitors had financial ties to the several manufacturers of those drugs. If the votes of those scientists had been eliminated, the panel would have voted to recommend removing 2 of 3 Cox-2s from the market. In another recent case, one physician who was paid to appear in a promotional video for a brand of silicone-gel breast implants sat on a panel charged with reviewing their safety. According to CSPI, the FDA begins virtually every advisory panel reviewing a new product with a statement waiving the prohibition on conflicts of interest for some of the scientists on the panel. Hinchey's bill would prohibit those waivers.
"For far too long the Food and Drug Administration has had an overly cozy relationship with the industries it regulates," said Merrill Goozner, director of CSPIís Integrity in Science project. "It is certainly true that more and more doctors and scientists are accepting funding from, working for, or investing in drug companies. But the notion that there arenít enough without financial conflicts of interest to serve on federal advisory committees is demonstrably untrue. Legislation such as that offered by Rep. Hinchey is exactly what is needed to restore public confidence in the FDA."For more information, contact: Center for Science in the Public Interest