WASHINGTON According to a study by the consulting firm Eastern Research Group, experienced members of the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee were more likely to have received financial conflict-of-interest waivers.
Several public interest groups, however, have reanalyzed the study and told the agency’s commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach that the FDA could easily find qualified experts without conflicts of interest to serve on the committees.
However, that conclusion does not follow the data in the study, argues a letter to von Eschenbach signed by the Center for Medical Consumers, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers Union, the National Physicians Alliance, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The ERG study looked at 16 advisory committee meetings held between December 2005 and Oct. 26, 2007. Thirty-two of the 124 advisory committee members received conflict-of-interest waivers. ERG then examined four advisory committee meetings with the greatest number of waivers, identifying 17 members receiving conflict-of-interest waivers.
In their letter to von Eschenbach, the groups pointed out that ERG found 70 potential committee members with equivalent or greater experience than the 17 members who received waivers. Although nearly half of the 70 individuals had publicly declared conflicts of interest, 30 reported they did not have any conflicts.