Crawford falsely stated in 2004 to government officials that his shares in food giants, Sysco and Kimberely-Clark had been sold, while he and his wife still held them.
If that’s not messy enough–while Crawford held shares in Pepsico, a soft drink and snack food company, he was chair of an FDA Obesity Working Group, which would review such things as calorie content labeling for soft drinks.
Conflict of interest issues within the FDA is a problem that’s existed for a while.
Senior FDA officials are not allowed to own shares in a company they regulate, but often times advisory committee members do have financial ties to a company whose products they are reviewing. And these members can play a big role in deciding a drug’s safety, for instance, before it goes to market.
The Institute of Medicine focused on this in their pretty harsh report of the FDA:
The advisory committees that FDA consults as a source of independent insight on questions about new products have attracted criticism because the agency allows individuals with financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry to serve. Noting that the agency does not impose limits on the number of committee members waived to serve despite financial ties, but also acknowledging that a zero-tolerance policy is unrealistic, the report recommends that a substantial majority — at least 60 percent — of advisory committee members be free of significant financial involvement with companies whose interests may be affected by their deliberations. FDA should issue waivers for the other committee members very sparingly.
Hopefully, a push for greater reform will come out of this news. In order for the public to have faith in this agency, we need to know that FDA officials and members have no financial ties with companies that may affect their decisions on bringing new products to the market. Our health depends on it.