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“So Take a Deep Breath, Pick Yourself Up, … Start All Over Again”

October 18, 2013

I concluded last week’s column with the following thought:

The shutdown will end, we just don’t know when. At that point, FDA will have a huge backlog of work to do, but everyone will sigh with relief. However, the Alliance has not lost sight of — nor should you — that the continued underfunding of FDA has dire consequences. After the tears of the shutdown, that is still the main story.

Who needs to get that message? First will be the new House/Senate committee set up to work on a path forward on spending and deficits and report back by mid-December. While their job is ostensibly to resolve the $90 billion difference between the House and the Senate budget resolutions, that topic can’t really be addressed without considering sequestration, entitlements, and government revenue. Perhaps it is good that the participants themselves, barely a day into the process, have already met once and said publicly how difficult it will be to find middle ground. Realistic expectations may be more fruitful than the optimism that surrounded last year’s super-committee effort to work out budget and deficit issues.

Meantime, the appropriators have been very positive about funding FDA. It is one of few non-defense programs that would receive more money under both the House and the Senate agriculture appropriations bill than it will under the CR. We will be reaching out to thank them again for their support and remind them that FDA is at a huge disadvantage under the CR.

Authorizers have also been supportive of FDA’s resource needs. They recognize that the multiple pieces of FDA legislation enacted over the last 3 years can’t be implemented without FDA receiving additional resources. Although they don’t have jurisdiction over FDA funding, they are credible voices acknowledging the funding needs.

Finally, the media and the public need to understand that FDA is a part of every American’s life. When you consider food, medication, devices, dietary supplements, pet food and drugs … most people are touched by the FDA every day, often a dozen times or more. The agency is not an optional part of government, but rather is critical to the fabric of life and commerce. As reporters and citizens understand this, they can appreciate that it takes manpower (and therefore money) to have the benefits of innovation and the assurance of safety.

This has been a tumultuous couple of weeks. Now we have no option but to dust ourselves off and re-join the long fight for more resources for FDA.

Note: This analysis and commentary is written by Steven Grossman, the Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. (Commentary title with due acknowledgements to Jerome Kerns and Dorothy Fields.)

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