FDA Scientists Claim Corporate Interference | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: March 7, 2012

FDA Scientists Claim Corporate Interference

Scientific Integrity: Advocacy group survey reveals a persistent concern that the agency says it is trying to address
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: FDA, scientific integrity, Union of Concerned Scientists

Although the Food & Drug Administration has made some progress in boosting scientific integrity in its decision making, hundreds of FDA scientists believe that corporate interests continue to interfere with their work, according to the results of a survey released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

UCS, a nonprofit advocacy group, surveyed 7,043 FDA scientists last summer. Of the 997 scientists who responded, 214, or 21%, believed that corporate interests had “a lot of weight in the FDA’s final decisions” and 347, or 35%, thought such influence was “too high.” In addition, 238 scientists say they “frequently” or “occasionally” experienced corporate interests forcing withdrawal 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. “When inappropriate influence clouds scientific judgment at the FDA, public health and safety suffer.”

The survey results worry FDA Chief Scientist Jesse L. Goodman. “Even though the percent of respondents is low and may not accurately represent all employees’ views, there are some findings that should still concern us,” he wrote on FDA’s blog shortly after the UCS report was released. Those findings include undue corporate influence on science-based decisions and “fear of retribution for sharing concerns about the FDA,” he said.

The new survey builds upon a 2006 UCS survey that asked many of the same questions. Despite continued concerns over undue influence, the results show some signs of improvements at FDA. For example, 743 FDA scientists believed the agency is protecting public health and safety, an increase of 25% compared with the 2006 results. In addition, 652 scientists—more than double the number than in 2006—agreed that “the agency is moving in the right direction.”

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