House Approves Measure To Prevent Conflicts of Interest on FDA Advisory Committees
The House on Wednesday voted 218-210 to approve an amendment to the fiscal year 2006 agriculture appropriations bill (HR 2744), under which scientists who serve on FDA advisory committees could not have a financial interest in the medications and medical devices that they would review, CQ Today reports. Under the amendment, introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), FDA could not use appropriated funds to issue conflict-of-interest waivers that many scientists require to serve on agency advisory committees.
Hinchey said, "There should be no question as to whether that committee's members are looking out for the public health. If you think that scientists who rely on drug companies for their financial wherewithal are going to recommend that the FDA take action that will harm that company, then you are living in a fantasy world" (Schuler, CQ Today, 6/8). He added, "Passage of this amendment to end conflicts of interest is a victory for public health and restores integrity and confidence in the FDA's advisory committees. The passage of this amendment over the opposition of the House Republican leadership demonstrates that the majority of Congress recognizes the glaring need to restore credibility to these advisory panels" (CongressDaily, 6/9).
However, opponents said that most top scientists have financial ties to the pharmaceutical or medical device industries at some point. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said, "The effect would be that the top experts in the field ... would not be able to advise the FDA. The conflict-of-interest waivers exist so the most knowledgeable scientists can advise the government agencies" (CQ Today, 6/8).
The FY 2006 agriculture appropriations bill, which the House passed on a 408-18 vote, moves to the Senate for consideration (CongressDaily, 6/9). Hinchey also introduced an amendment to the bill that would have provided HHS with the authority to require post-market studies of prescription drugs, but the measure failed on a point of order (CQ Today, 6/8).