A June 3 article in the Business & Finance section said information given to a Food and Drug Administration panel in 1977 by former FDA official Dr. Arnold Scafidi had been supplied to Scafidi by Burton, Parson & Co. Inc. The company that supplied the information was not Burton, Parsons.
The Food and Drug Administration yesterday disclosed it had suspended two key officials who were entertained repeatedly by a Washington-area company while the agency was granting the firm a near-monopoly over a segment of the soft contact lens industry.
Testifying yesterday before the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations, Dr. Arthur H. Hayes Jr., the new FDA commissioner, said that on Monday the two FDA employes, microbiologist Mary Bruch and ophthalmologist Dr. Arnauld Scafidi, were put on "nonduty status with pay."
The company, Burton, Parsons & Co. Inc. of Seat Pleasant, gained control of the manufacture and marketing of various cleansing and purifying solutions specified by the FDA for soft contact lenses.
Between 1974 and 1979, Bruch and Scafidi were entertained more than 100 times at restaurants across the country, and Bruch on about 10 occasions was taken to Bowie, Laurel, and Pimlico race tracks by executives of the company.
Mainly as a result of FDA decisions, the company grew from having $5 million in sales in 194 to a point where able to sell it for $10 million in 1979 to a U.S. subsidiary of Nestle S.A. of Switzerland.
Bruch acknowledged in a prepared statement that "my acquiescence in being entertained . . . was both inappropriate and unseemly." But she denied categorically that she was "in any way influenced, properly or improperly, but any representative of Burton, Parsons."
Last Friday, during the first day of the two-day hearing, John E. Bryer, a former employe of Burton, Parsons testified that he was told that the Manfusos made sure Mary Bruch won at the track.
Yesterday, Bruch claimed that the Manfusos had never used their money to place bets for her, and she dismissed Bryer as embittered because
The 50-year-old Bruch testified that the business relationship with John A. Jr. and Robert Manfuso developed into personal friendships. "It's human to have friends," she said, echoing Scafidi's testimony.
Summing up her relationship with the Manfusos and other companies, Bruch said: "There were no envelopes passed, nor was I offered or did I ask for anything, such as blind interests in stock of the like. Rather I sat openly in restaurants and hotels using my own name, with various industry representatives."
Scafidi, a bulky, 44-year-old medical doctor, told the subcommittee that in 1977 he unknowingly had presented false information to an FDA panel about a new lens in which Burton, Parsons had an interest. He said the information had been passed to him by the company. "I just took it for granted that the company was telling the truth," he said.
In 1978, the FDA banned the sale of inexpensive salt tablets used by soft lens wearers to mix a homemade purifying solution. They were forced to turn to costly preserved saline solution, and Burton, Parsons virtually controlled the saline solution market as a result of FDA decisions.
Bruch, who apparently was fearful that salt tablets users would fail to follow directions, allegedly forced the ban through. Almost immediately, the FDA was flooded with complaints from lens wearers, and last year the ban was finally lifted.
In 1979, in support of the ban, Scafidi wrote to the National Registry of Drug-Induced Ocular Side Effects that he had "documented" evidence from doctors of 196 cases of eye damage from using salt tablets. But under tough questioning yesterday, Scafidi admitted that he could supply the names of only two doctors and said he never had any documents to back the 196 cases.