FDA to Have Bigger Budget Under Obama

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long been criticized for failing to meet its commitments, putting untold citizens at risk in a variety of areas. Now, President Barack Obama is urging Congress to give the FDA $300 million more in its funding, reports the Wall Street Journal, noting that this is the largest such increase in history.

The agency, which is responsible to ensure <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">drugs, <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_medical_devices">medical devices

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and products, some human and animal food products, cosmetics, and other consumer goods are safe to Americans, has been faulted for all manner of problems, including that it did not have a permanent commissioner for the majority of former President Bush’s eight-year term.

Under the former administration, the FDA was accused of letting politics minimize science and that it was during this time that some of the most notorious drug safety and food borne illness outbreaks originated. For instance, the massive Salmonella outbreak last year that sickened hundreds nationwide and was ultimately linked to Mexican peppers; the enormous Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella scandal in which thousands of products, hundreds of illnesses, and at least nine deaths were linked; and the deadly Heparin tainting that sickened scores and was associated to numerous fatalities, to name just a few. There have also been countless drug and medical device recalls, issues with toxic ingredients in consumer products, controversies over physician and researcher gifting by industry, inappropriate marketing of medical devices and medications, and a system rife with corruption.

President Obama’s recent pick for FDA head, Margaret Hamburg, has said she is looking to overhaul the ailing agency and restore confidence in the FDA, said the Journal. Hamburg is expected to be voted in, with no contest, by Memorial Day, said the Journal.

When Barack Obama’s transition team was readying for office, some FDA scientists wrote begging for help, outlining a number of problems with an agency they described as “fundamentally broken,” according to an earlier Journal report. The group asked for restructuring and noted that, in addition to other ethical fiascos, FDA managers “ordered, intimidated, and coerced scientists to manipulate data in violation of the law,” the Journal then said. The letter said that, “There is an atmosphere at FDA in which the honest employee fears the dishonest employee,” the Journal quoted, and noted that the letter gave specifics on details such as how scientists who differed in opinion from management were threatened with disciplinary action.

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Now, in efforts to protect American citizens, the budget request will alllow $2.35 billion to the FDA for fiscal year 2010—compared with $2.06 billion the prior such year, said the Journal. The FDA’s budget been hampered since the mid 1990s. According to William Hubbard, a former associate FDA commissioner for policy and planning, “The FDA had been held down for so many years with very, very small increases,” quoted the Journal. Hubbard said that the proposed increase and another $172 million from the previous year, would better enable the FDA to hire much-needed inspectors and scientists, and “begin to solve some problems,” reported the Journal, which would bring staffing levels a the agency back to those from the 1990s, prior to when some of the more prominent agency problems initiated.

Hubbard noted the funding increase for FDA food oversight. President Obama wants $783 million, an increase over the last year’s $649 million, said the Journal.

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