Conflict of interest: FDA panelist voted against drug, had ties to competitor

Is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doing enough to keep its advisory panels clear of conflicts of interest? Recent disclosures suggest it isn't. An FDA advisory panel member who voted against the diabetes drug Avandia revealed that he served as a paid speaker for a rival drug manufacturer, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Dr. Abraham Thomas, head of the endocrinology and diabetes division at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, was one of 12 panelists who called for removing Avandia, from the market. They were outnumbered by the 20 who voted to keep it on the market.

Between Sept. 2007 and Sept. 2008, Thomas gave two talks as a member of rival manufacturer Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.'s Diabetes Speakers' Bureau, earning $2,000 to $3,000 per talk. He told the WSJ that he told the FDA about his relationship with Takeda and did not recall any issues surrounding his work for the speakers bureau. He said FDA's review of the potential conflict of interest was thorough.

The FDA didn't immediately respond to the WSJ's calls for comment.

This disclosure came on the heels of another conflict-of-interest revelation by a member of the same advisory panel. Although Avandia has come under fire for possible connection to heightened risk of heart attack, Dr. David Capuzzi, who is a paid speaker for Glaxo, which makes Avandia, was one of three panelists who wanted the drug to stay on the market with no extra warnings or restrictions. He also served as a consultant on an Avandia advisory board before 2009, according to Glaxo.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- see the Fair Warning blog

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