Monday, March 01, 2010

GlaxoSmithKline Given a Seat on FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee

While it seems bad enough that the tobacco industry is given three seats on a supposed "scientific" advisory committee to guide the FDA in its implementation of the regulation of tobacco products, the FDA made the situation worse today by providing a major pharmaceutical company with a vested, multi-million dollar interest in smoking cessation products a seat at the table as well.

Today, the FDA announced that a GlaxoSmithKline consultant - Dr. Jack Henningfield of Pinney Associates - was appointed to the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee.

Pinney Associates is a pharmaceutical consulting firm that provides consulting support to GlaxoSmithKline on an exclusive basis regarding tobacco dependence treatment. GlaxoSmithKline is the manufacturer of Zyban and NiQuitin.

In addition to his serving as an exclusive consultant to GlaxoSmithKline specifically on the issue of tobacco dependence treatment, Dr. Henningfield also has a personal financial interest in smoking cessation treatment, as he has a financial interest in a potential new oral nicotine replacement therapy product.

To make matters even worse, Dr. Henningfield has testified in court as an expert witness on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that Big Pharma now joins Big Tobacco with a seat at the table on the supposedly objective and scientific FDA advisory committee that will guide the Agency in its decisions about the regulation of tobacco products. These regulations will have a major impact on the future profitability of smoking cessation medications. The last individual in the world who you would want to serve on such a panel would be a Big Pharma consultant, especially one who consults specifically in the area of smoking cessation medications. The fact that this individual also has a personal financial interest in such medication and who also has testified in court on behalf of Big Pharma simply adds insult to the public's injury.

That GlaxoSmithKline joins the tobacco companies in having a seat at a supposedly "scientific advisory" table undermines the entire point of the panel and turns the whole thing into a joke, rather than a serious scientific and policy undertaking for the benefit of the public's health.

These type of panels should consist of individual scientists who are impartial and do not have personal financial conflicts of interest with industry, especially if that industry is to be directly regulated by the FDA and if the use and profitability of its products will be directly affected by the national policy decisions that the Agency makes.

For example, one issue that the FDA is going to have to deal with immediately is the regulation of electronic cigarettes. As these products are a tremendous threat to GlaxoSmithKline profits (not to mention Big Tobacco profits), there is no way that the Scientific Advisory Committee can have an objective discussion about this issue.

Unfortunately, the FDA has chosen to invite Big Pharma to the table.

So much for an objective scientific panel. Industry's influence on the FDA just became even bigger, and in a major way.

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