Conservative think tanks behind a movement to curb the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory powers received at least $3.5 million from drug and tobacco companies over the past four years, a study says.
The think tanks have used the money to produce “a steady stream of reports, fact sheets, op-ed articles and newspaper, radio and television advertisements purporting to document the FDA’s deadly overcaution and bullying of manufacturers,” said the study by Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader, that was to be released today.
“By relying on industry-funded misinformation in crafting FDA legislation, Congress may well threaten the lives and well being of millions of Americans,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. The group supports the FDA’s efforts to regulate the sale of tobacco to minors.
The House Commerce Committee is considering a menu of bills that would revamp the FDA, in part by turning over much of its job to private companies that would approve new medicines and foods under FDA supervision.
A spokeswoman for one of the think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute, called the report “diversionary.” “This is pretty clearly a substitute for a serious debate,” said Meredith Munger. “AEI is well known for its quality economic research on a wide range of issues. If they want to discuss the conclusions of our research, we’d be happy to.”
Because of weak disclosure requirements, much of the money flowing into the campaign to revamp the FDA is untraceable, the study said. But using IRS forms, annual reports and other information, the report identifies $3.5 million that flowed to seven think tanks from 1992 to 1995. The actual figure is probably far higher, it said.
The top donor was Eli Lilly & Co., which pumped at least $623,800 into the think tanks over the four-year period. Others included Procter & Gamble, $552,500; Bristol-Myers Squibb, $340,000; and SmithKline Beecham, $325,000.