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Gearing Up for “FDA 101″ … Starting in the Fall

August 8, 2014

In the 8 years that Steven Grossman and I have been advocates for FDA funding on behalf of the Alliance, we have learned that Members of Congress have a variety of views about FDA and its performance. Some days the agency is a hero; other days – the goat. On any given day, the agency can find itself lauded and criticized by different Members about the exact same action.

A subset of Members — composed mainly of those who sit on committees of jurisdiction — work frequently on FDA issues, and are impressively knowledgeable. However, with 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, there are many members who do not routinely work with the agency and have less knowledge about the agency’s important work. In fairness to those Members, even though every American is touched multiple times each day by FDA and its work, much of it is invisible — unless there is a problem. Further, there has been significant turnover among Members of Congress.  A majority in the House has been in office for less than 6 years; and a majority in the Senate are in their first term.

All of which is to say, the best Congressional audience for FDA is one that understands and appreciates what the agency does. It is hard to make the case to Members of Congress for FDA’s exceptional funding needs if they don’t see how FDA is different from the many causes competing for tight federal discretionary dollars.

From the beginning, the Alliance has considered Congressional education one of its important mandates. Three years ago, after the 2010 election created more new freshmen than at any time in recent history, the Alliance had meetings with more than 70 Member offices to make sure that they knew what FDA was, why it was important, and who to contact if they had questions about FDA. It was such a success that we have repeated the effort every year since.

Sometime this Fall, we will be starting yet another outreach and education program — a Hill briefing that we are informally called “FDA 101.” It is intended to provide an ever larger number of Congressional offices with the opportunity to learn more and understand better the critical work done by the FDA. Assuming it will be a success, we are planning to do more such events next year.

We hope Alliance members will appreciate the importance of these efforts in supporting agency funding and enhancing the Hill’s understanding of all FDA issues. In addition, we would ask all our Alliance members to think about adding a few words about FDA into each Hill meeting you participate in. If Congressional staff indicate an interest in more information, just let us know and we will follow through.

Note: This week’s Analysis and Commentary was written by Ladd Wiley, the executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

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