The Washington-based nonprofit research group examined the approval rate of 11 randomly selected FDA advisory committees, and found that between 1998 and 2005, those committees recommended FDA approval of 79 percent of the 89 products considered.
"Some of the committees have never met a product they don't like," says Diana Zuckerman, president of NRCWF. "From a consumer point of view, this is not good news."
The FDA has been criticized lately by members of Congress for not adequately overseeing drug safety. The agency has also been the target of consumer advocacy groups for its frequent appointments of doctors and scientists with conflicts of interest to drug advisory committees. Under current FDA rules, experts who have financial relationships with the drug companies whose products their committees are to examine are still allowed to serve on such panels. The agency claims it is re-writing its guidelines on when such conflicts are acceptable, though FDA critics say financial conflicts are never acceptable when the decisions made by agency panel members affect public health.
"FDA advisory panels are routinely rigged with so-called experts who maintain secret financial ties to drug companies," charged Mike Adams, creator of the CounterThink comics that humorously describe FDA fraud. "For the FDA to claim these decisions are all based on science is absurd. They're engineered to create the illusion of scientific merit while maximizing profits for pharmaceutical companies at the expense of public health," he said.