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Congressmen Urge Greater FDA Funding Next Year

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Two Democratic congressmen who chair powerful committees this week called for increased funding for a US Food and Drug Administration that they said lacks proper resources and has not been able to keep up with increased demands caused in part by innovation and globalization.

In a letter to US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Senator Tom Harkin (D – Ia.) and Representative Henry Waxman (D – Calif.) asked the secretary to boost her congressional request for funding for FDA's 2012 budget. They claim that flat funding in the middle of the last decade has left the agency playing catch-up in recent years and unprepared for a growing tableau of responsibilities including more drugs, new devices, and a growing global supply chain for food resources in the US.

The congressmen, however, did not specify how much of a boost they would like to see for FDA next year.

"There have been several high-profile illustrations of the fact that the FDA is not always able to successfully meet these demands," the congressmen said in the letter.

"The heparin contamination and the many food safety outbreaks are some of the most notorious examples. Unfortunately, the FDA has become an agency that has been reduced to 'management by crisis,' continually forced to address the most recent crisis instead of preventing the next one," they added.

"Three recent food-borne disease outbreaks alone, for example, have sickened or killed scores of our citizens and have been estimated to cost over a billion dollars. These are graphic illustrations of what will continue to happen if we do not give FDA the resources to set modern food standards and inspect the facilities that manufacture our food," the letter continued.

Harkin serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Waxman serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The congressmen said that the $4.03 billion that FDA has sought for its 2011 appropriation will not be enough for the agency to do what it is needed to perform its current duties and to prepare for its future ones.

In 2010, FDA received $3.2 billion; in 2009, $2.7 billion; and in 2008, $2.4 billion.

In support of the Harkin/Waxman letter, the advocacy group Alliance for a Stronger FDA said the request is an effort "to look one fiscal year ahead," which recognizes the importance of FDA resources and of Sebelius' role in seeking the appropriations

"It would be short-sighted — this year or next year — to leave our premier public health agency overextended and ill-equipped to carry out its mission," Nancy Bradish Myers, VP of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA and president of Catalyst Healthcare Consulting, said in a statement.