ALG Calls On Administration to Dismiss Science Panel Members With Conflicts

FDA Scientific Advisory Panel Rife with Conflict

March 31st, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today released the following statement regarding what Wilson termed are “blatant conflicts of interest on one of the Food and Drug Administration’s key outside panels.”

“An important panel set up by the FDA has a near majority of its voting members getting paid by special interests who have billions of dollars riding on the outcome of the committee’s ultimate decision. This is ludicrous.

“The Obama administration continues its rhetoric about a balanced, objective approach to science – an approach that sets aside agendas and emphasizes science – but we keep finding that special interests trump scientific findings.

“On this advisory panel, ironically called the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, the heavy influence of big pharmaceutical companies is overwhelming. Pharmaceutical companies stand to make huge profits if the committee takes certain actions like banning menthol.

“We strongly recommend that the Obama Administration reconsider the make up of this committee, dismiss the members or require them to abstain from issues affecting their own financial interests.”

• Jack Henningfeld a voting member of the committee is a consultant to GlaxoSmithKline the maker of Nicorette gum who would stand to benefit financially from further restrictions on tobacco products

• Neil L. Benowitz was Pfizer consultant which makes the drug Chantix that aids people who want to quit smoking. Benowitz has also worked for GlaxoSmithKline and Nabi Pharmaceuticals

• Dorothy Hatsukami received grant support <> from Nabi Pharmaceuticals to study their nicotine vaccine

• The head TPSAC, Jonathan Samet, also received grants from GlaxoSmithKline and the organization he headed was funded by two different pharmaceutical companies

The law establishing the committee specifically states that the “membership of the advisory committee to be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the advisory committee;” and that the committee “contain appropriate provisions to assure that the advice and recommendations of the advisory committee will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest, but will instead be the result of the advisory committee’s independent judgment.”

ALG is not alone in having concerns about the financial conflicts of interest on the TPSAC panel. A recent report by the financial giant UBS cited unease by noted Professor Michael Siegel that the panel “is loaded with people who have a very strong pharmaceutical industry ties. Four of the panelists, actually, are either funded by pharmaceutical companies or actual consultants for pharmaceutical companies that manufacture smoking cessation products.”

Just today, two major anti-smoking researchers called for the head of the committee to step down due to conflicts.