Emails obtained through a public records request reveal how Big Pharma, supposed independent researchers and the Food and Drug Administration are involved in a pay-for-play scheme involving drug trials and research.
The emails show that a scientific panel that shaped FDA policy for testing the safety and effectiveness of painkillers required $25,000 fees from drug manufacturers to attend the panel’s meetings. The panel, led by two academics, provided advice to the FDA on how to weigh evidence from clinical trials.
The medical professors who led the group were Robert Dworkin of the University of Rochester and Dennis Turk of the University of Washington. They received as much as $50,000 each for a meeting. The money went to their academic research accounts and paid for research assistants and expenses. In the emails, they also suggested they should receive honoraria payments of $5,000 for a four-hour meeting.
The emails show some of the pharmaceutical companies balked at the fees. “20k is small change, and they justify it easily if they want to be at the table,” Dworkin wrote to Turk in July 2003, after an Eli Lilly representative complained. “Everybody has been very happy with [the meetings] and they are getting a huge amount for little money (impact on FDA thinking, exposure to FDA thinking, exposure to academic opinion leaders and their expertise, journal article authorship, etc.) and they know it. Do they really expect it to be any less than 20K per meeting for all this?”
The attorney who obtained the emails told The Washington Post, “These e-mails help explain the disastrous decisions the FDA’s analgesic division has made over the last 10 years. 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.”
Recent court cases have revealed the Big Pharma pays doctors thousands of dollars to sign off as authors of research papers they’ve barely read and that were written by Big Parma PR hacks. These research papers are used by the FDA to approve certain medications.
There is also a revolving door between the FDA and the drug companies.
Contrary to popular belief, the FDA and Big Pharma are interested in money more than they are interested in health.