Conflict of Interest Strikes Again at the FDA

On his GoozNews website, journalist Merrill Goozner recently tackled the decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to overrule FDA scientists and ban the sale to minors of the over-the counter morning-after contraception pill. He noted that opponents called it a blatant political move by the White House to woo social conservatives.

It’s part of a pattern, Goozner suggests, that Capitol Hill pols might be influencing other FDA decisions. To wit: the agency’s appointment last month of at least three scientists to a drug safety advisory committee charged with reviewing birth control products made by Bayer. The scientists, it seems, had financial ties to Bayer. The FDA did not disclose their connections, as reported in an investigation by BMJ and the Washington Monthly.

The committee recommended that Bayer’s problematic birth control pills (sold as Yaz and Yasmin) remain the market despite the FDA’s own reports of dozens of deaths from blood clots. (We recently wrote about Bayer’s questionable marketing efforts for the troubled drug.) The tsunami of lawsuits filed against the company weren’t compelling to the committee, which, Goozner reported, said the benefits of having another birth control option on the market outweighed the risks.

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