The COVID-19 pandemic has led to fewer US Food and Drug Administration inspections of drug companies, according to the New York Times.
It found that the agency inspected 52 pharmaceutical plants in the US between March and October 2020, as compared to 400 in the same timeframe in 2019. In addition, inspections of pharmaceutical plants abroad have largely been halted, it adds. The Times reports that this drop in inspections is due to pandemic safety guidelines limiting the travel of federal employees as well as pandemic-related travel restrictions.
Critics argue that inspections of drugmakers should be considered an essential activity and resume and say that the drop in inspections could lead to drug shortages and the delayed rollout of new drugs the Times reports. FDA officials tell it that the decreased number of inspections has not slowed drug approvals, but the Times notes that a number of pharmaceutical companies have issued statements regarding deferred FDA action on new drug applications.
Some drugmakers and others have proposed virtual inspections, though others reject that as inadequate, the Times adds.