Drug companies shelled out in a big way to get a seat at meetings between the FDA and an advisory panel, paying up to $25,000 per meeting, the Washington Post reports based on hundreds of emails. The panel, which was funded by the money, helped the FDA evaluate painkiller safety and efficiency. "Instead of protecting the public health, the FDA has been allowing the drug companies to pay for a seat at a small table where all the rules were written," says a lawyer who sought the emails via public records request.
The news comes amid concerns over widespread painkiller addiction, the Post notes. "These emails help explain the disastrous decisions the FDA’s analgesic division has made over the last 10 years." The FDA says it takes "the concerns very seriously," but doesn't know of "any improprieties" in the case. The panel was established by a pair of academics, and since it wasn't launched by the FDA itself, the partnership was private, says an official. That means it didn't have to adhere to rules on public-private partnerships, he says. The 30- to 40-person meetings sought to establish "consensus" on drug testing issues; along with FDA and NIH officials and academics, they included up to 14 drug company reps. Click for the full investigation. (Read more pharmaceutical companies stories.)