‘Foreign donations may influence FDA policy’
International public health experts warned that the donations given by international groups to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might influence the decision of regulators on tobacco control or influence the regulatory agency’s future decisions and take away its independent judgment.
Professor David Sweanor, advisory committee chairman of the University of Ottawa Center for Public Health Law and Policy, said accepting foreign funding from sources with vested interests could destroy the public’s trust in regulatory bodies.
“In this case, the money ultimately comes from a US entity with an abstinence-only agenda on low-risk alternatives to cigarettes,” he added.
But the FDA maintained that the donations given by different nonprofit organizations were legal and part of a project to help in the regulation of tobacco products.
In a public briefing on Thursday, FDA Director-General Rolando Enrique Domingo said the agency is allowed to receive funding for projects coming from nongovernment organizations. He added that FDA officials had explained to Congress that they had not received any money from the foundation.
“It was a program to help with the regulation of tobacco products kasi public enemy No. 1 pa rin po ang mga sakit na dulot ng paninigarilyo (because we consider diseases from smoking as our public enemy No. 1), ” Domingo said.
Two members of the House of Representatives called for a congressional hearing on the FDA’s acceptance of foreign funding from Bloomberg, which promotes an agenda that is against electronic cigarettes and vaporizers (or vapes).
Public health expert and former director of Action on Smoking and Health United Kingdom Clive Bates said billionaire Michael Bloomberg was using his wealth to promote his beliefs about the prohibition of vaping, had very little experience in public health and had no grasp of the lives of the people involved.
“Governments and their agencies should not take money from Bloomberg’s foundation or the worldwide complex of organizations that it funds. The duty of the Philippines FDA is to look after the welfare of Filipinos, not to take instructions from foreign advocacy operations,” Bates added.
Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow and consumer policy analyst Michelle Minton said American philanthropists had dedicated resources and energy to interfere with the
politics and policies of other nations.
“More disturbing is the fact that they seem only to care about imposing their moral agenda, regardless of the needs and interests of local populations,” she said, adding that most of the world’s smokers reside in low- and-middle income nations where access to traditional smoking cessation therapy has been limited.
She claimed that American lobby groups continue to pressure authorities to ban lower-risk nicotine, denying people the choice to switch to products that can spare them from the death and disease caused by smoking.
Sweanor said Bloomberg’s donation should be considered as interference by a foreign party in a local regulation and that countries should protect their regulatory agencies from such interference.
“One can imagine the response of the United States if Philippines money was offered to its FDA to protect unsanitary food from safer options. The Philippines should respond in the same way to a United States effort to deny its people access to safer nicotine products,” he added.