Think tank asks FDA to purge conflicts

The FDA is giving up too easily on managing conflicts of interest on its advisory committees, according to a new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The think tank dug through an FDA-sponsored study on conflicts and discovered that conflict-free, expertise-rich replacements could be found for committee members who are somehow beholden to industry. When that study was released last month by the agency, the FDA said it "highlights the difficulty of assembling highly qualified experts who are free of conflicts."

The study looked at four FDA advisory committees for which the FDA had issued 17 waivers of conflicts of interest. Researchers found 30 qualified, conflict-free people who could have taken those 17 conflicted members' places. The study did acknowledge that screening committee members for conflicts would cost more if done properly.

CSPI says the effort would be worth it. The think tank, along with Consumers' Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists, sent a letter to FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach (photo) urging him to work harder to assemble conflict-free committees. The think tank also wants FDA to implement a rule it proposed in March that would prohibit committee members from voting if they have conflicts exceeding $50,000.

- see the press release from CSPI
- read the letter to von Eschenbach
- read the story in The Scientist

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