In a report sent to Capitol Hill on Jan. 31, FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach reported that 24 percent of advisers to the agency’s seven centers and offices received conflict-of-interest waivers between November 2005 and January 2007. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) had the worst performance, with 146 of 417 advisers, or 35 percent, requiring waivers because they owned stock in, consulted for, or served on the speakers' bureaus of firms with products up for approval or their competitors.
The agency's ability to identify advisers without conflicts of interest has not budged since Congress acted. Although the agency says it reviewed the resumés of 724 candidates to fill the 175 open slots on its committees, its ratio of waivers per meeting was nearly identical over the period. For instance, CDER granted 42 waivers for the 8 meetings in the first quarter of last year compared to 30 waivers for 6 meetings in the fourth quarter.