Sunday, July 08, 2018

He who pays the piper, calls the tune

Independent advisers tasked with reviewing drugs for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sometimes receive massive financial support from the very companies they are tasked with overseeing, in spite of the strict conflict of interest rules intended to cut down on that potential influence, a new investigation by Science magazine has found.

The financial support can include direct payments to the researchers, or indirect support through research funding from major pharmaceutical companies and their competitors hoping to bring a new drug market. The magazine’s investigation found that this support was doled out after the drugs were approved, thus avoiding the types of disclosures that would have raised questions by the FDA during the drug approval process. 

The analysis of payments found that, of 107 physicians who advised the FDA on 28 drugs that were approved between 2008 and 2014, the majority of them later received financial support — including direct payments for consulting, reimbursements for travel expenses, or other support for research — from the companies whose drugs they voted on. That includes seven physicians who received over $1m (£750,000) in such financial support from the companies, 19 who received between $100,000 (£76,500) and $1m, 14 who received between $10,000 (£7,500) and $100,000, and another 26 who received between $1,000 (£756) and $10,000 in financial support. Forty-one physicians or advisers received no payments or financial support from the companies they voted on.

 Jonathan Halperin, a cardiologist with Mount Sinai in New York. Halperin, who received at least $2.1m (£1.59m) in financial support from pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, disputed the notion that after-the-fact payments for consulting or in support of research influenced his decision-making process.

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