Whatever Happened to ‘Follow the Science?’ PPT Documents Another Instance of Scientific Integrity Breach

Whatever Happened to ‘Follow the Science?’ PPT Documents Another Instance of Scientific Integrity Breach

  • April 26, 2023
FDA’s policy agenda appears to have overridden its own science and research (yet again)

Today, government watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced yet another complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over alleged scientific integrity violations, the latest in a series of apparent violations by HHS and its component agencies that PPT has documented as part of its Science Undermined project. Just last week, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) asked the HHS Inspector General at a hearing about the status of their review as he submitted PPT’s complaints into the record.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a mandate to use the best science available and to provide the public with scientific resources and policy decisions based upon honest and forthright analysis of the best available data. Yet recently released public records indicate the agency has chosen to promote public health messages on vaping that appear to be unsupported by its own research and scientific findings. PPT’s latest complaint documents where FDA appears to have breached its obligation to uphold scientific integrity in its decision-making through 1) knowing dissemination of scientifically unfounded statements about the vaping industry that were contrary to the FDA’s own research, and 2) overruling its own scientists’ recommendations to authorize menthol-vapes without proper scientific justification and in contradiction of the FDA’s own research. The agency’s own data appears to contradict the FDA’s stance on vaping products, leaving the public left to wonder if political interference or major special interests are taking precedence over scientific research at the FDA.

The apparent scientific integrity violations identified may well be the same as those concerns of career scientists alluded to in recent reports issued by the Reagan-Udall Foundation following their audit of the FDA’s human foods and tobacco programs. The report has yielded a robust response from leadership at the agency, attempting to avert additional congressional scrutiny or allegations of misconduct. Following the nation’s experience with the FDA and other public institutions concerning the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, this latest apparent violation may not be the last to hit the embattled public health agencies once perceived as the most trusted voices in government.

“In the wake of the COVID pandemic, trust in public health officials is at an all-time low,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “The actions and statements of senior leadership at HHS and its component agencies over the last few years have played a prominent role in that decline. Though ostensibly guided by strong scientific integrity principles and a mandate to follow the science, records obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust show that too often HHS is willing to toss science overboard when it interferes with their political and policy agendas. Unfortunately, this mismanagement and misconduct may lead to tragic consequences.”