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Are FDA Changes Really a Superficial Step in the Right Direction?

Feeling the heat from Congressional watchdogs, the FDA promised to clarify conflicts of interests from within expert advisory panels earlier this week. How they can achieve transparency when such conflicts are so numerous and common is another matter entirely, however.

The FDA monitors some 50 advisory panels that allegedly offer impartial advice. Yet, more than a quarter of members serving on those panels are paid by the very same companies they're expected to oversee, amounting to billions of dollars to their "employers," the mega-drug companies, one way or another.

I suspect the FDA hopes their pledge would be enough to hold off a Congressional bill that would force the agency to bar outside consultants from serving on advisory panels with any financial ties to a company's product under consideration.

On the other hand, the agency also wants to protect its power to grant waivers from such conflict-of-interest rules, claiming any new rules may bar experts who have the most expertise in a given area.

Although such policies may help superficially, some experts believe, as I do, it'll take far more to fix the drug-addicted FDA, considering the Vioxx debacle and the growing concerns surrounding the bone-rotting drug Fosamax.

Los Angeles Times July 25, 2006 Registration Required

San Jose Mercury News July 24, 2006

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