Bill would end bias on FDA advisory panels

July 5, 2005

Washington -- The House of Representatives has passed a measure that would end conflicts of interest among scientists and doctors on U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panels.

Washington -- The House of Representatives has passed a measure that would end conflicts of interest among scientists and doctors on U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panels.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., who introduced the bill, called its passage a victory for public health and said it restores integrity and confidence in the FDA's advisory committees. The bill passed by a 218 to 210 vote.

In a news release issued by Rep. Hinchey's office, it was noted that the FDA often waives conflict-of-interest prohibitions and appoints scientists with conflicts to serve on the panels.

"These appointments undermine the objectivity of this outside advice and bias the committee's recommendations, which are reached by a vote of the panel members," the release went on to say.

A recent example: The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 10 of 32 scientists on the FDA's Cox-2 advisory panel that recommended in February that the drug be returned to the market had ties to manufacturers of the drugs.

"Had their votes been eliminated, two of the three drugs in that class would have been voted down by the panel instead of receiving narrow support," Rep. Hinchey's news release noted. The drugs were withdrawn from the market last September after being linked to increases in heart attacks and strokes.

Rep. Hinchey has called for major changes throughout the FDA. Meanwhile, Rep. Hinchey's critics say restrictions on conflicts of interest will make it impossible to find enough qualified members for the advisory panels, since so many researchers work in the industry.

-- Compiled by Staff Correspondent Bill Gillette

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