In case you missed it, Timothy P. Carney had a must-read column in the Washington Examiner today (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/Big-Pharma-rumbles-with-Big-Tobacco-93707069.html) about the egregious conflict of interests on a new FDA scientific advisory panel. This panel will vote on something new called dissolvable tobacco products and may vote to ban menthol in cigarettes. While science doesn't support a ban, after reading Carney's piece you can see why some of these panel members would be inclined to turn a blind eye.
Carney summarizes the conflict succinctly in his first paragraph: "Federal officials are planning new regulations on tobacco products, including those marketed as alternatives to smoking -- such as dissolvable tobacco tablets sold by Camel. But some of the men and women on the government's official advisory panel have financial ties to the drug companies selling competing products, such as Nicorette. One government adviser even holds a patent for a new nicotine gum."
ALG was one of the first organizations (http://getliberty.org/content.asp?pl=10&sl=5&contentid=405) to notice the dirty little secret of this "scientific" panel. Four of nine members have clear conflicts. In March we said these members should either be dismissed or at the very least they should abstain from issues affecting their own financial interest.
Now others are joining the chorus. This committee – stacked with members who have clear conflicts of interest – may vote to ban menthol in cigarettes. If they do so, they will be creating a huge, new market for products like nicotine chewing gum and nicotine patches – the very same products they were paid millions of dollars to help develop for the companies.
Carney's column bolsters our argument because he uncovered an even more damning conflict involving one member. Jack Henningfield, he said, "is also one of eight patent holders of a cutting-edge nicotine chewing gum that has not yet been commercialized."
We've seen it before: government decisions tainted by conflicts of interest. The case for dismissal was strong before. It's even stronger today.
New Media Director, Americans for Limited Government
Big Pharma Rumbles With Big Tobacco
By Timothy Carney
Federal officials are planning new regulations on tobacco products, including those marketed as alternatives to smoking — such as dissolvable tobacco tablets sold by Camel. But some of the men and women on the government's official advisory panel have financial ties to the drug companies selling competing products, such as Nicorette. One government adviser even holds a patent for a new nicotine gum.
It's a full-fledged regulatory rumble between Big Tobacco and the even bigger Big Pharma — the sort of ugly influence game that will become the norm as government sticks its arms deeper into the economy.
Some quick background: Philip Morris, which controls about half of the U.S. cigarette market is doubling down on smokeless tobacco products, such as chew and snuff. It has lobbied tirelessly over a decade for the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco. President Obama signed the bill last June, misleadingly trumpeting it as a triumph over the lobbying efforts of Big Tobacco.
The law creates a Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee that gives the FDA guidance in implementing the new regulations. Now Philip Morris — the godfather of this law — is raising a fuss over the conflicts of interest littering the committee.
For instance, Jack Henningfield is one of nine voting members on the TPSAC, and he is also one of eight patent holders of a cutting-edge nicotine chewing gum that has not yet been commercialized.
Henningfield is also vice president of health policy at a consulting firm that counts drug maker GlaxoSmithKline as a client. Glaxo holds the license for Nicorette, the leading nicotine gum currently on the market.
Multiple conflicts present themselves here:
As regulations on cigarettes become more restrictive, they become harder to get. This makes them more expensive, increasing market demand for a product like Henningfield's.
But cigarettes are not the real battleground here — cigarette alternatives are.
TPSAC is looking into the safety of dissolvable tobacco products, such as R.J. Reynolds' Camel Orbs, small tablets that melt in the mouth — a quick fix for a smoking addict stuck on a plane or in a meeting. One TPSAC member, Gregory Connolly, has attacked them for being too candylike, thus appealing to kids.
But is nicotine gum like candy? How about the brand new mint-flavored Nicorette Mini lozenges?
Camel Orbs may or may not be a real health risk, but they are certainly competition to Nicorette's gums and lozenges — and Henningfield's patented gum. Yet our government will count on Henningfield and others in the pay of Nicorette's maker for counsel on how to regulate Camel's product.
Neal Benowitz, another committee member, has also worked as a consultant to Glaxo as well as Pfizer, the Wall Street Journal has reported. Pfizer makes the quit-smoking drug Chantix.
Boston University professor Michael Siegel has reported on his blog that the committee's chairman, Dr. Jonathan Samet, "has received grant support from GlaxoSmithKline. In addition, the organization that he directed — the Institute for Global Tobacco Control — is funded by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer."
Finally, committee member Dorothy Hatsukami has been paid by a small drug maker to study its proposed nicotine vaccine.
A tobacco industry consultant brought my attention to the drug maker conflicts on TPSAC, knowing that I have been calling out Big Tobacco since 2006 for its use of Big Government to kill competition and lock in market share. Now the tobacco companies worry that Big Pharma — the nation's biggest industry in terms of lobbying spending, and a crucial ally of the Obama administration — will use its government clout to unfairly crush tobacco products in favor of Pharma-made nicotine products.
It's an ugly game, this use of regulation to kill competitors and guarantee business, and conflicts of interest are unavoidable. The Pharma-vs-Big Tobacco scrum shows that Obama's project of increasing government control is at odds with his talk of cleaning up government.
Timothy P. Carney is the Washington Examiner's lobbying editor. His K Street column appears on Wednesdays.
Read more at NetRightDaily.com: http://netrightdaily.com/2010/05/big-pahrma-rumbles-with-big-tobacco/#ixzz0nw3IBjac