Context: The Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee (CRDAC) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews safety and efficacy data for cardiovascular and renal drugs, ultimately making recommendations to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs for approval. The Open Public Hearing segment of these meetings allows for patients, advocates, healthcare professionals, clinical trialists, and members of the public to provide testimony, which often results in expressing their preference for, or against, drug approval. Prior to providing testimony, the public speakers are highly encouraged to disclose any financial conflicts of interest (FCOIs) with the sponsor or other groups. Given the potential influence of these speakers on drug approval recommendations, we investigated the industry associations disclosed by public speakers in the Open Public Hearing section of the CRDAC meetings. Previous studies, such as one done by Lurie et al. indicated that positive testimony is tied to a higher likelihood of drug approval, and because drug companies provide financial compensation for speakers to provide testimony in general, we wanted to determine the likelihood with which speakers who have an FCOI provided a positive testimony vs. those without any FCOI.
Objectives: The purpose is to evaluate whether public speakers with an FCOI are more likely to provide positive testimony regarding the drug in question during the CRDAC of the FDA between February 2009 and December 2019 through the use of publicly available transcripts.
Methods: Independent researchers investigated public transcripts and minutes of the CRDAC meetings with public speakers (n=20). We identified all speakers, along with characteristics such as an FCOI, and classified statements utilizing a pilot-tested Google form. The data collected were analyzed utilizing Stata. The speaker’s testimony was then compared with their FCOI. An ordered logistic regression was performed utilizing the speaker’s testimony regarding the drug as the dependent variable.
Results: Of the 88 speakers represented in our sample, 35 (35/88, 39.8%) disclosed an FCOI, most commonly regarding travel cost. Among speakers with an FCOI, 30 (30/35, 85.7%) spoke positively. Speakers with an FCOI were 4.96 times more likely to provide positive testimony (OR=4.96, 95% CI 1.67–14.78). Speakers with the disease were also more likely to provide positive testimony (OR=13.05, 95% CI 2.84–59.93).
Conclusions: Public speakers often play a role during meetings, and they may also have an FCOI, most commonly related to travel expenses. Our study shows that speakers with an FCOI are more likely to provide positive testimony. Stipulations, such as requiring disclosure of FCOI and randomizing the selection process of speakers, can help ensure the integrity of the drug approval process.