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Conflicts of Interest Among FDA Advisory Committeee Members

Posted by medconsumers on July 1, 2005

Conflicts of Interest Among Physicians and Scientists Who Serve on FDA Advisory Panels

Recently, there have been after-the-fact revelations that some outside experts who serve on FDA advisory committees have financial ties to companies that make the products under their review. For example, early this year two FDA advisory committees jointly decided that Pfizer’s popular arthritis drugs, Celebrex and Bextra, could remain on the market. And Merck might be allowed to return its arthritis drug, Vioxx to the market. A surprising judgment considering that all three belong to the same drug class, known as cox-2 inhibitors, which are associated with an increased number of heart attacks and strokes. [for more on Cox-2’s and FDA hearings click here] What’s more, all three are expensive and no more effective than older arthritis drugs sold over the counter.

After these decisions were made, it was revealed that 10 of 32 experts who sat on the two FDA advisory committees had financial ties to companies that produce these drugs. Had their votes been excluded, two of the three drugs under review would, very likely, not have remained on the market.

The Center for Medical Consumers recently joined other public interest organizations in supporting legislation that would prohibit scientists and physicians with financial ties to industry from serving on FDA advisory committees. In June 2005, the U.S. House of Representative passed an amendment to the FDA/USDA appropriations bill, which would prohibit experts from serving on FDA advisory panels if they have financial ties to companies that make food, drugs or medical devices that would come under their review. The measure was introduced by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and had bipartisan support. We have urged the Senate to pass this legislation, too. [click to read  letter to Senator Durbin]

Arthur A. Levin, MPH, Center for Medical Consumers © July 2005

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