Major pharmaceutical companies paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to sit on a scientific panel that shaped the FDA’s policy for safety testing of pain killers, according to e-mails obtained by a public records request. Companies paid as much as $25,000 to attend meetings of the advisory panel, The Washington Post reports.

The panel was created to provide the FDA with advice on how to weigh evidence from clinical trials. According to the Post, “FDA officials who regulate painkillers sat on the steering committee of the panel, which met in private, and co-wrote papers with employees of pharmaceutical companies.”

Two medical professors, Robert Dworkin of the University of Rochester and Dennis Turk of the University of Washington, created the yearly clinical trials review panel called IMMPACT. During IMMPACT meetings, a panel of scientists, FDA and National Institute of Health (NIH) members, and major pharmaceutical company representatives discuss the safety and effectiveness of painkillers, based on clinical trial results, according to Common Dreams.

“They [pharmaceutical companies] are getting a huge amount for very little money (impact on FDA thinking, exposure to FDA thinking, exposure to academic opinion leaders and their expertise, journal article authorship, etc.) and they know it,” an e-mail from Dworkin to Turk states. “20k is small change, and they can justify it easily if they want to be at the table.”

“These e-mails help explain the disastrous decisions the FDA’s analgesic division has made over the last 10 years,” Craig Mayton, the attorney who made the public records request, told the Post. “Instead of protecting the public health, the FDA has been allowing the drug companies to pay for a seat at a small table where all the rules were written.”

According to e-mails, two FDA officials later became pharmaceutical consultants. The FDA issued a statement saying that they take the concerns “very seriously,” but were “unaware of an improprieties” regarding the panel.

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.