Compromise Reached on Financial Conflicts of Interest on FDA Panels


Statement of CSPI Integrity in Science Project Director Merrill Goozner

October 27, 2005

The compromise provision to the FY2006 Agriculture/FDA appropriations bill that provides advance notice when scientists with conflicts of interest serve on FDA advisory committees is a step in the right direction. We congratulate the Senate and House conferees, especially Sen. Richard Durbin and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who helped make this possible.

Consumers concerned that drug, device and food manufacturers have corrupted the FDA’s advisory committee process will soon have 15 days notice when the FDA wants to put scientists with conflicts of interest on one of its 30 advisory panels. Simultaneous publication of the waivers granted to scientists, along with their conflicts, gives the public additional information for evaluating whether their participation may taint the proceedings. Under the current system, where the waivers are kept under wraps pending a Freedom of Information Act request that can take years, the public is effectively kept in the dark about the ties between some scientists on FDA panels and the companies whose products are up for approval.

Moreover, we're glad to see that the FDA will have to document to Congressional appropriators and the HHS inspector general what steps it has taken to avoid appointing scientists with conflicts to its panels. This will encourage the agency to seek out more of the nation’s highly qualified scientists who do not have financial ties to industry.

However, past experiences suggests this bill does not go far enough. CSPI believes the FDA can find qualified scientists without conflicts of interest to serve on all of its advisory panels. That’s why the waivers should be disallowed entirely. At the least, the present disclosure bill could have been made stronger by forbidding scientists with waived conflicts of interest from voting at the conclusion of a committee’s deliberations.

 

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