FDA commissioner one of several to receive awards from ACSH

FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan should avoid appearing too cozy with the companies he regulates by declining an award from a group funded by food, drug, and other companies, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The group, called the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), has been criticized by CSPI, Consumers Union, and others in the past for trying to soft pedal a wide range of public health and environmental concerns about some of the products its funders make. Although ACSH stopped disclosing its donors, it had previously admitted to receiving funds from Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Dow Corning, Kraft, Merck, Monsanto, NutraSweet Co., and Pfizer.

“ACSH denies links between a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol and heart disease, dismisses the dangers of global warming, calls vegetarianism an eating disorder, and filed a friend-of-the-court brief (paid for by a maker of formaldehyde) in defense of a probable human carcinogen,” CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson wrote to McClellan. “I long ago concluded that their policy statements usually are not based on sound science, but are predetermined by ACSH’s and its corporate benefactors’ anti-regulatory agendas.”

McClellan is scheduled to receive the award tomorrow at a ceremony in New York emceed by John Stossell of ABC’s 20/20. For a $25,000 contribution to ACSH, a donor gets a table for ten “with excellent placement” and a full-page listing in a program.

“If Dr. McClellan would feel queasy about accepting an award from a drug company directly, he shouldn’t accept one indirectly through ACSH—a deceptively packaged front group,” Jacobson said. “I’m also concerned that ACSH seems to be raising money from corporations by peddling access to a government regulator. It doesn’t seem appropriate.”