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PLoS Med. 2013;10(5):e1001450. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001450. Epub 2013 May 28.

Tobacco company efforts to influence the Food and Drug Administration-commissioned Institute of Medicine report clearing the smoke: an analysis of documents released through litigation.

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  • 1Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Spurred by the creation of potential modified risk tobacco products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the science base for tobacco "harm reduction," leading to the 2001 IOM report Clearing the Smoke. The objective of this study was to determine how the tobacco industry organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the report.

METHODS AND FINDINGS:

We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents in the University of California, San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, and IOM public access files. (A limitation of this method includes the fact that the tobacco companies have withheld some possibly relevant documents.) Tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have high-stakes regulatory implications. They developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings. When the IOM study staff invited the companies to provide information on exposure and disease markers, clinical trial design for safety and efficacy, and implications for initiation and cessation, tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and in-house regulatory staff shaped presentations from company scientists. Although the available evidence does not permit drawing cause-and-effect conclusions, and the IOM may have come to the same conclusions without the influence of the tobacco industry, the companies were pleased with the final report, particularly the recommendations for a tiered claims system (with separate tiers for exposure and risk, which they believed would ease the process of qualifying for a claim) and license to sell products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes ("substantial equivalence") without prior regulatory approval. Some principles from the IOM report, including elements of the substantial equivalence recommendation, appear in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

CONCLUSIONS:

Tobacco companies strategically interacted with the IOM to win several favored scientific and regulatory recommendations.

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