ATLANTA (CNN) -
The House of Representatives Wednesday passed a measure to end conflicts of interest among scientists and doctors on Food and Drug Administration advisory panels.
"Passage of this amendment to end conflicts of interest is a victory for public health and restores integrity and confidence in the FDA's advisory committees," said Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., who introduced the bill that passed 218-210.
"Without this, there is no way to assure the public that a panel's recommendations are fair and unbiased and in the interest of public health," he said.
The FDA often waives conflict-of-interest prohibitions and appoints scientists with conflicts to serve on the panels, Hinchey's office said in a news release.
"These appointments undermine the objectivity of this outside advice and bias the committee's recommendations, which are reached by a vote of the panel members," the release said.
For example, 10 of 32 scientists on FDA's Cox-2 advisory panel that recommended in February that the drug be returned to the market had ties to manufacturers of the drugs, the Center for Science in the Public Interest found.
"Had their votes been eliminated, two of the three drugs in that class would have been voted down by the panel instead of receiving narrow support," Hinchey's news release said. The drugs were withdrawn from the market last September after being linked to increases in heart attacks and strokes.
"Recent FDA actions have created serious doubts about whether committee members are serving only the public interest and, as a result, industry biases now taint many advisory panel decisions," Hinchey said. "Today we took a giant step forward to squash those doubts."
Hinchey has called for major changes throughout the agency.
Some critics have said such restrictions would make it impossible to field enough qualified members of the advisory panels, since so many researchers work for the industry.
A call to the FDA news office was not immediately returned.
How is the FDA trying to repair its reputation from the Vioxx crisis? Click here.