Public health policy experts seek deeper probe into Bloomberg donation to FDA
MANILA, Philippines — National public health policy experts are calling for a deeper investigation into the receipt of funds by the Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from the anti-tobacco Bloomberg foundation to determine whether it violated both Philippine and United States laws.
Dr. Joel L. Nitzkin, a US physician who was cross-trained in public administration, cited the need to shed light on the filing of a resolution by two Filipino lawmakers last month calling for a congressional probe on the Philippines FDA’s acceptance of foreign funding from Bloomberg in possible breach of the Constitution and several laws.
Prof. David John Nutt of Imperial College of London, who chairs Drug Science, said it would be interesting to review the FDA case to determine whether it violated any US charity regulations, particularly if it illicitly interfered in the governance of another state.
“We need to know how much money has been donated, both in dollars and as a percentage of the FDA budget. In addition, we need articulation from both donor and recipient ends as to the intended purpose of this donation. If this is as illicit as it appears to be, the next step would be to challenge this in the Philippine courts, and possibly in American courts,” said Nitzkin.
In December last year, Ilocos Sur First District Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano and Nueva Ecija First District Rep. Estrellita Suansing, filed the resolution directing the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the alleged “questionable” receipt of private funding by the FDA and other government agencies and institutions “in exchange for the issuance of specific and predefined policies against a legitimate industry under Philippine laws and in complete disregard of the rights and welfare of consumers.”
The call for an inquiry stemmed from the admission by FDA officials, during a public hearing on Oct. 28, 2020 for the drafting of the general guidelines on the regulation of electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) and heated tobacco products, that they received funding from The Union and Bloomberg Initiative which are international private groups that advocate against all forms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and HTPs.
Health policy consultant Scott D. Ballin, who previously worked on U.S. FDA regulation of tobacco, described the issue as “troubling” as it involves the direct contribution of funding or money to a regulatory agency.
“This is obviously a real concern. The overriding issue is indeed transparency and the requirements that a regulatory body follow guidelines in ensuring that policy-related decisions are made based on sound science and as part of a transparent regulatory process. If the (tobacco) industry had done this, there would have been outrage coming from public health entities as we well know,” Ballin said.
“Accepting money without disclosure and which might be an ethical if not a legal violation is something else. I don’t have or see enough information in the Philippines situation to see if the money was contributed for a specific purpose, etc. That said, the fact that this was done leaves a foul taste in the mouth,” he said.
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