HHS Announces Members of New Research Advisory Committee; Draws Criticism from Patient Advocates
HHS on Friday named the 11 members of an advisory committee that will make recommendations to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on the protection of human research subjects, Washington Post reports. HHS established the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections last fall after several human research subjects suffered injuries in U.S. clinical trials. Thompson said, "We must make sure that we allow science and medical research to advance for the good of all Americans, but not at the expense of the people who participate in these clinical trials" (Weiss, Washington Post, 1/5). The new committee will replace the National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee, which expired last September. The charter of the new committee, drafted last October, states that members "will provide advice relating to the responsible conduct of research involving human subjects with particular emphasis on ... pregnant women, embryos and fetuses," a provision that led to some controversy (California Healthline, 10/30/02). The announcement of the committee membership on Friday raised concerns from patient advocates because most of the members represent research facilities with "financial stakes in human experiments" and none are patient advocates. Abbey Myers, president of the National Organization for Rare Disorders and a patient advocate, said, "Without consumer advocates, there's no one there to remind them that the purpose of human research protections is to protect humans, not to protect university research institutions." The "scuffle" over the committee membership marks the latest in a "series of accusations that the Bush administration is systematically revamping its scientific advisory committees to accomplish political goals," the Post reports.
One of the committee members named on Friday, Jonathan Moreno, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics University of Virginia and a member of the former National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee, expressed "surprise" at his appointment and said that the Bush administration never asked him whether he would serve on the new committee, the Post reports. Moreno said that he had "no intention of joining" the committee based on the "embryo-oriented" charter and a membership that includes a number of representatives of research facilities, the Post reports. He added, "You can say all heads of research are patient advocates, but institutional roles do mean something, and when it comes time to take a position on research protections, the institution or business that you represent makes a difference" (Washington Post, 1/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.