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TESS VIGELAND: The Food and Drug Administration's advisory boards can make or break or a drug. In an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars, that's real power. But what if members of those advisory committees are also earning money from the drug companies that stand to gain if a drug is approved? Today, the FDA revealed the outlines of a plan to eliminate those conflicts of interest. Marketplace's Hillary Wicai has more.


HILLARY WICAI: Dr. Sidney Wolfe at the watchdog group Public Citizen is one of the FDA's biggest critics. The group recently published a report that found at least 28 percent of FDA advisory board members had a financial conflict. The House has passed legislation on this. Wolfe says perhaps that Congressional pressure is why the FDA took action today. Still, he says, the plan to have a plan is inadequate.
SIDNEY WOLFE: The repeated use of "We're going to clarify what's going on" as opposed to "We're going to restrict the ability of people with financial conflicts of interest to be on advisory committees," is very suspicious.

The FDA says it will soon issue guidance clarifying when conflict of interest waivers are granted, among other things. Some are glad to see the FDA moving slowly. Dr. Thomas Stossel is at the Harvard Medical School. He says if the FDA were to prevent anyone with industry ties from serving on advisory committees, the government would lose the kind of experienced people it needs.

THOMAS STOSSEL: The best and the brightest are the people who interact with industry.

Approximately 75 percent of the research done on drugs is paid for and supervised through grants from the drug industry.

In Washington, I'm Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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