FDA connections should not affect women’s health

While we have a responsibility for our health,  I’m left wondering if possible corruption within the drug industry often prevents us from being well enough informed to begin to carry out this responsibility.

At Guilford College, it is said that nearly 50 percent of Guilford’s female population take some form of birth control. Thanks to the drug companies, that could be a major problem.

Little did anyone know that, less than a month after eighteen-year-old Michelle Pfleger left her home to be a freshman at Elon University in 2010, she would collapse and die.

Pfleger, whose physical health was no different than many on our campus, died from a massive blood clot after taking Yaz, a birth control pill, to treat her acne.

After independent studies showed Yaz to have a higher blood-clotting risk than similar products, an FDA advisory committee convened to decide whether these studies justified taking Yaz off the market.

What wasn’t publicly disclosed until recently was that four of the panel members held ties to Bayer, either as paid consultants or in the form of research funding.

The American public needed to know that a potential bias existed. The recent actions of the FDA seem to lean more towards corporate bias than concern for women’s health.

The FDA did not follow its own protocol to disclose those corporate ties to the other committee members who voted 15 to 11, saying the benefits of Yaz outweighed its risks.

Meanwhile, the FDA outright barred the voting power of one panel member, who has been in the medical field for 40 years and does not receive funding from pharmaceutical companies.

The FDA claimed that Sidney Wolfe, who co-founded the Health Research Group with Ralph Nader in 1971, had an “intellectual conflict.”

Wolfe told The Guilfordian in a phone interview that he was barred from voting because he said the drug was unsafe in a newsletter his organization circulates.

“Essentially, the FDA said I had a conflict because I had an opinion,” said Wolfe. “As a researcher working in the field, of course I’m going to have an opinion — every expert in the field has a well-informed position.”

It borders on corruption when the FDA is willing to accept the votes of financially interested parties, while disqualifying a physician for offering a highly qualified, well-researched opinion.

Keeping Yaz on the market shows that Bayer thinks it is okay if some people occasionally sicken or die from one of their products.

Bayer is making a staggering $2 billion a year in sales from Yaz. This shows that the company has a vested interest in keeping it on the market.

Anything short of finding unbiased panel members to vote on FDA committees is a crime against students, families and the American public who trust the FDA acts on its due diligence instead of appeasing corporate interests.  Sadly, it looks like that this corrupted system of appeasement is precisely what has happened here.

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