Surveyed FDA Scientists Claim Corporate Influence | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 11 | p. 44 | Concentrates
Issue Date: March 12, 2012

Surveyed FDA Scientists Claim Corporate Influence

Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: FDA, scientific integrity, Union of Concerned Scientists

Hundreds of FDA scientists believe that corporate interests continue to interfere with their work, according to a survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The nonprofit advocacy group questioned 7,043 FDA scientists last summer. Of the 997 scientists who responded, 214 believed that corporate interests had “a lot of weight in the FDA’s final decisions,” and 347 thought such influence was “too high.” In addition, 238 scientists said they “frequently” or “occasionally” experienced corporate interests forcing withdrawal of or changes to FDA policies or actions. “Despite the Obama Administration’s improvements in scientific integrity, political and corporate influence over the FDA’s scientific work persist,” Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program, said in a statement. In response to the survey, FDA’s chief scientist, Jesse L. Goodman, wrote on FDA’s blog that although the survey represents a small group, the findings of undue corporate influence on science-based decisions and “fear of retribution for sharing concerns about the FDA” are worrisome. On a positive note for FDA, the survey found that 652 of the surveyed scientists agreed “the agency is moving in the right direction.”

 
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Comments
anders (March 13, 2012 2:31 PM)
Britt, this is a pretty large distortion of a weak survey. Why toss around numbers instead of percentages when response to any given question varied a fair bit. Also the lead that corporate influences interfere was not statistically the most significant finding. Actually FDA scientists responded at every level that Congress had the largest frequency of actually stopping agency initiatives to protect public health vs corporate influences stopping or changing FDA public health actions (7.3 vs 5.3% frequently stopping; 30.7 vs 28.8% frequently or occasionally stopping; 48.3 vs 45.3 seldom,occasionally,or frequently stopping).
In terms of their personal opinions on appropriate influence, FDA scientists suggested politics had too much influence (55.9%) more frequently than corporate interests (40.1%). More precisely to the question this article mentioned, FDA scientists thought political calculus had "a lot of weight" in FDA decisions (30.6%) more frequently than business interests (24.6%).
Finally much more attention should have been paid to the small response rate. All of this on sample size of 9.2% of the identified population and only 7.2% of the total FDA employee population. These findings are merely suggestive, and any change from previous years is more likely due to sampling a different group of employees than to a changing experience.

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