Issue Date: February 4, 2008
Conflicts of Interest
In "Empowering FDA," the discussion about advisory panel members with conflicts of interest says, "It is not a good idea to keep experts off advisory committees simply because they have conflicts of interest" (C&EN, Dec. 3, 2007, page 33).
I agree that members with conflicts of interest have valuable expertise. Why not allow a limited proportion of members with conflicts of interest on any given committee, say 20% maximum? To avoid problems, these members would not be able to vote.
For example, there is an association of building code officials for people who enforce the construction of buildings in accordance with various building codes. This association welcomes members from the regulated community, such as architects and builders, but does not allow them to vote. Letting the regulated community vote on measures that affect them is considered a conflict of interest. The building code officials' organization benefits from the expertise of the members with conflicts of interest, but things are kept on the up-and-up because these particular members can't vote.
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