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Ethics in Question over High-Price Drug Advisory Panel Meeting

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Lauren Lopez4 years ago

The Washington Post has reported on an e-mail detailing financial contributions made by pharmaceutical companies to doctors who advise the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

E-mails Between Advisory Panel and Pharmacuetical Companies Draw Attention

E-mail correspondence has been found detailing transactions between two medical professors and pharmaceutical representatives. The scholars put on a small meeting between the academic professionals, the FDA, the NIH to design clinical trials concerning prescription pain medication. The professors also allowed pharmaceutical representatives to be part of the decision making process, but for a price tag of $20,000 a rep.

The ethics of this transaction are being called into question. In an e-mail sent to a pharma rep who was concerned about the steep price for the meeting, one of the coordinating professors said that, “everybody has been very happy with [the meetings] and they are getting a huge amount for very 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.” This gives documented evidence that the very entities that were being regulated would be able to be the regulator by paying the price and attending the meeting.

An NIH staffer has come forward saying that a few pharmaceutical companies outright paid for the meeting itself, thus influencing the decision making process and outcomes for their own product. It is a concern not only to consumers regarding the safety of prescription pain medication but a concern to the public welfare as a whole.

Pain Medication Information and Statistics

Prescription pain medication was the central topic for the questionable meeting that took place. Pain medications, also known as opioids, can be very dangerous substances in light of the proclivity of individuals to develop an addiction. More well-known opioids include oxycontin, vicodin, and morphine.

According to the CDC, dangers that stem from abuse of pain medications include:

  • The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years.

    • These powerful drugs can create a feeling of euphoria, cause physical dependence, and, in some people, lead to addiction. Prescription painkillers also cause sedation and slow down a person’s breathing.
    • A person who is abusing prescription painkillers might take larger doses to achieve a euphoric effect and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
    • These larger doses can cause breathing to slow down so much that breathing stops, resulting in a fatal overdose.
  • Due to concerns of misuse, the FDA began to require that all opioids carry a black box warning label detailing risks of addiction and fetal injury.
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