FDA Gives Research Grants to Members of Tobacco Advisory Committee

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
(AP graphic)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come under scrutiny for allegedly playing favorites when it comes to giving out grants.


Complaints have surfaced within the scientific community about FDA funding for research being conducted by members of the agency’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee.


In helping to support those efforts, the agency has chosen to reject “several projects deemed by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel to have greater scientific merit,” conducted by researchers not represented on the committee, according to Reuters. The NIH deemed proposals from Virginia Commonwealth and Yale, which were funded, to have less scientific merit than proposals from Duke University and SRI International, which were rejected.


This decision has upset some researchers who were left out. “The close association between the people who recommended which grants should be funded, and the advisers whose grants actually received funding, could have influenced the evaluation process,” Jed Rose, director of Duke University’s Center for Smoking Cessation, who was turned down by the FDA, told Reuters.


Others have criticized the agency for not being more forthcoming about how it decides to fund certain projects and why.


“It has an odor of insiderness and friendliness,” Dr. Jerome Kassirer, distinguished professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, said.


The FDA has insisted favoritism plays no role in its grant awarding. The fact that members of the advisory committee receive federal support is “purely coincidental,” officials insist.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

FDA Recommendations on Tobacco Grants Prompt Transparency Concerns (by Toni Clarke, Reuters)


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