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New Ways to Impress Policymakers

May 7, 2010


House Energy & Commerce Hearing.   This week the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on food safety.  Increased resources for the FDA was a prominent theme throughout the hearing.  Please click on the link for further information on the hearing.


Looking at this year and beyond, the Alliance needs to find new ways to impress policymakers with the importance of increased funding for FDA.

One approach is to talk more about why safe foods and safe and effective medical products aren’t a given. It costs money and requires manpower to accomplish. Further, and for a lot of reasons, it costs more each year to maintain and expand FDA’s efforts.

Another approach is to talk more about “the rest of FDA.” The National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) is a gem — but underappreciated because of its distance from DC (Arkansas) and misunderstandings about what it does and why it belongs in FDA. CFSAN’s work on “applied nutrition,” cosmetics and dietary supplements is too often treated too lightly because it is being compared to the Center’s work on assuring a safe food supply. Every time I hear a presentation on the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), I am amazed at the breadth and importance of their work. FDA has a critical role in national security that is often mentioned, but rarely detailed. Hint: If there is an anthrax attack or a dirty bomb, you will be grateful that FDA worked diligently on reviewing and approving medical countermeasures.

Yet another way to impress policymakers is to document the importance of a well-funded FDA in the American economy.  The Alliance is about to release a new advocacy paper, entitled “FDA’s Vital Role in the American Economy.” We are so committed to this approach that we are circulating an RFP (attached to last week’s Friday Update) for a longer, more comprehensive document.

Did you know that: in 2006, total US employment in the biosciences was 1.3 million people and that the food industry included about twice that many people? When we meet with Members of Congress, this is a revelation to them and forces them to rethink their view of FDA’s mission and activities.

The advocacy paper explores FDA’s role in the President’s National Innovation Infrastructure Initiative. Commissioner Hamburg has committed FDA to a more positive role in supporting this effort. The paper also looks at FDA’s role in this nation’s ability to compete globally.  A final section looks at the costs of not acting to strengthen FDA. Better therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease could put a dent in the $172 billion that the disease is estimated to cost the United States annually. The peanut crisis last year — the result of a single bad company and a few executives — cost the American economy about $1 billion due to lower prices and lost sales.

Advocacy about FDA’s role in the economy serves to strengthen our position that FDA is of critical importance. Developing these arguments also serves another purpose. Most members of the Alliance have a strong focus on public health, as do our champions on both the appropriating and authorizing committees. However, public health is not a priority for a significant number of Senators and Representatives. For them, talking about FDA’s importance to the economy resonates in a way that our public health arguments don’t.

Note: This analysis and commentary is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance.


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