Drug reviewers often ditch FDA for pharma industry, research finds

More than 25 percent of cancer and hematology drug reviewers who left the Food and Drug Administration between 2001 and 2010 now work for or consult drug companies, according to a research letter published in The BMJ.

Vinay Prasad, MD, a hematologist-oncologist and assistant professor at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, completed the analysis to quantify this trend, or what many refer to as the "revolving door" between the FDA and drug industry.

Dr. Prasad and his colleague Jeffrey Bien, MD, an internal medicine resident also at Oregon Health, tracked 55 FDA employees responsible for reviewing hematology-oncology drugs from 2001 to 2010 using LinkedIn, PubMed and other public job data. Of the 26 reviewers who left the FDA during this time period, 57 percent (15 reviewers) ended up working at or consulting for a pharmaceutical company.

The researchers questioned whether this relationship with the drug industry has any effect on FDA employees. "If you know in the back of your mind that your career goal may be to someday work on the other side of the table, I wonder whether that changes the way you regulate," Dr. Prasad said in a Kaiser Health News report. "Are you more likely to give [companies] the benefit of the doubt?

"The FDA has a strong set of rules in place to ensure that our employees are working in the public interest, not to advantage any company, organization or individual," said Jason Young, a spokesperson for the FDA. These rules contain a "cooling-off" requirement for senior officials, which prevents them from working in the drug industry for a certain amount of time, he said.


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