The FDA isn't going to enjoy the latest data analysis being done on the vacancy rates among its highly influential advisory committees. Eye on FDA looked over the numbers recently and found that around one in four expert slots were left empty in the fourth quarter. And then Pharmalot's Ed Silverman went one step further and scanned the numbers on individual centers. At the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research the vacancy rate was right around one in three.
The FDA's target vacancy rate: 10 percent.
Janet Woodcock, chief of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, (25 percent vacancies in December) noted recently that finding the right people without potential conflicts these days can be tough. "It's a concern for all our staff...There is no doubt it is difficult finding highly experienced people who do not have conflicts."
Eye on FDA notes that the agency has several options when chairs go unfilled. They can shift experts among panels, recall past panelists and call for auditions among candidates. Of course, as Silverman notes, it may be practical right now to loosen conflict-of-interest rules that many in the industry have found too draconian.