CSPI Urges Removal of FDA Panelists on SSRIs


February 1, 2004

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been urged to remove three of 11 scientists on one of its advisory boards evaluating the link between serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and suicide in youths because they have been paid consultants for the companies that make the drugs under investigation.

In a letter to the FDA, Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science Project at CSPI, wrote that the three scientists have financial conflicts of interest that run afoul of the Federal Advisory Committees Act.

The three scientists were identified in a Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) investigation into the make-up of the FDA advisory committees that will meet Monday to discuss the possible link between suicide and the use of SSRIs in children.

The FDA in the past two weeks has added eight new members to the Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee, which along with the Pediatric Subcommittee will be evaluating the drugs.

The industry-funded scientists on the committee include:

  • Dr. Wayne K. Goodman, chairman of the Department fo Psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Dr. Goodman has studied sertraline (Zoloft) on a grant from Pfizer, its manufacturer.
  • Dr. Neil D. Ryan, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Ryan is a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, maker of paroxetine (Paxil), and has studied suicide data on behalf of Glaxo.
  • Dr. Philip S. Wang, association physician in the department of pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Wang served as an expert witness for Glaxo in a wrongful death suit involving Paxil.
  • Another three scientists on the committee have received funding for their research from the pharmaceutical industry, but, as far as the CSPI investigation could determine, not to study SSRIs.

“Appointing scientists to an drug advisory committee who may have preconceived notions based on their previous industry-funded studies of the drugs is like asking a defendant to serve on a jury,” said Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science Project at CSPI. “The FDA should not grant these scientists waivers to serve on the committee. It should find scientists who can offer a fair and impartial opinion on possible problems associated with these drugs.”

The backgrounds on many of the scientists serving on the FDA panels can be found in the Integrity in Science database at http://cspinet.org/integrity/database.html. While the database may not be complete, all data on scientists in the database has been checked against publicly available records.

 

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