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The Alliance’s Top 10 Issues for Emphasis

November 12, 2010

ADVOCACY

Meeting with HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr. The Alliance is pleased to report that we are meeting with Deputy Secretary Corr this coming week to discuss the FY 2012 budget cycle.

Letter to Congressional Leadership Regarding FY 2011 Omnibus. Attached please find the letter the Alliance sent to Congressional Leadership this past week urging the Senate to recede to the House funding level for the FY 2011 Agricultural, FDA and Rural Development Appropriations Bill.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

There will be a lot of new Members of Congress soon. In the 112th Congress, some will join committees and subcommittees that relate to FDA — through appropriations, authorizations or oversight. FDA will do its own introductions to the extent it is permitted by law. It falls to the Alliance and its members to provide a broader context and make a persuasive case for increased resources for the agency.

That makes it a good time to review the fundamental points about FDA that guide our efforts. Here are the Alliance’s top 10 things that policymakers and advocates should know about FDA.

  • FDA is a comparatively small agency. It’s appropriated funding totaled just $2.35B in 2010. Yet it is responsible for regulating products that account for almost a quarter of all consumer spending.
  • In 1984, FDA and CDC were the same size; today the CDC budget is nearly three times as large. This demonstrates how much ground FDA has lost over the years. We have no hesitation in saying the agency has been chronically underfunded for several decades.
  • A strong FDA is good for the US economy and for our balance of trade. As we struggle through a recession and the need to streamline government, this is an increasingly important point. Not only is FDA’s work critical to public health and safety, but its role is important to job-formation and the US economy.
  • FDA is an integral part of our response to public health emergencies, including defense against bioterrorism. Combating seasonal and pandemic flu and recovering from natural disasters has become a larger part of our national health. To this has been added the responsibility for encouraging and reviewing medical countermeasures to increase homeland security.   
  • FDA’s appropriation is almost entirely for staff costs, requiring nearly a 6% funding increase each year to sustain program levels. Over 80% of FDA’s budget pays for “people costs”: salary, benefits, training, rent, IT, etc. There are very few grants and contracts that can be cut in difficult budget years. If the FDA budget falls short, employees would need to be laid off.
  • After three years of good increases (thank you, Congress), FDA staffing levels from the 2010 appropriation have only just been restored to the previous high-level achieved in 1994. More than 15 years ago, FDA’s appropriated budget paid for about 9,100 people. This had fallen over the years, reflecting the many years in which FDA was not given enough funding to sustain its workload. In 2010, FDA finally returned to the same personnel level it had in 1994. Needless to say, in the intervening years its responsibilities have grown immensely.
  • User fees serve valuable functions, but they are targeted and support only specific activities. They don’t strengthen the FDA in carrying out its overall public health mission. The Alliance is often asked: are user fees just as good as appropriated dollars. The answer is “no.”
  • All FDA stakeholders support a stronger FDA (consumers, patients, health professionals, and industry). This is what the Alliance is about, showing policymakers that FDA is so valuable to our American life that all the stakeholders support the agency getting more resources. After looking at our membership list, Hill staffers often comment: there can’t be many things that all of these groups agree upon.
  • FDA’s responsibilities increase each year — through new mandates, globalization, scientific complexity. It’s not just new laws that expand FDA’s responsibilities and workload. The FDA-regulated environment expands and gets more complex and global each year. This requires more resources to assure the American people have a safe food supply and safe and effective medical products.

As the President and Congress sort out our national priorities, the tenth is the most important point:

FDA touches every American multiple times each day.

Today’s investment (2 cents per day per American) is a pittance compared to the benefit of a strong FDA and the risk of an underfunded FDA.

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

RELEVANT MEDIA

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