JAMA study concludes FDA panel members often have financial conflicts

Medical experts who serve on FDA advisory panels often hold drug company stocks or have consulting contracts with pharmaceutical manufacturers, but are rarely excluded from being considered for panel service, according to an article appearing this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, conducted by consumer group Public Citizen, examined advisory panel votes and financial disclosure records from 2001 to 2004. Peter Lurie, the study’s lead author, told The Wall Street Journal that ideally, anyone reporting a financial conflict should be excluded from voting at meetings and believes it is possible for the FDA to find qualified experts to serve on their panels who are free of financial ties to drug companies. The study did, however, find a “weak relationship” between financial conflicts and voting behavior. For example, overall votes would not have changed if members reporting conflicts were excluded. An FDA spokesperson responded in The Wall Street Journal by stating that the agency tries to make certain that panel members will make an “unbiased, productive contribution to the scientific process.”