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Better Laws, Clearer Policies, and More Benefit for the Health of Americans

May 11, 2014

The Alliance’s mission is to assure that Congress, the media, and the public are well informed about the importance of FDA and the need for adequate resources to support its growing responsibilities. In this regard, our first priority is always members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, followed by the two authorizing committees: House Energy and Commerce and Senate HELP.

Building up FDA’s case with these four committees provides our essential base of support, but is not sufficient to cover all the ways in which FDA is a topic on Capitol Hill. Just as FDA touches every American multiple time per day, there is no State or Congressional district in which FDA is irrelevant.

We know from experience that every Congressional office receives constituent requests and letters about the agency and a remarkably broad base of Senators and Representatives are interested in FDA issues. This becomes even more evident at particular points in the cycle of public health, regulatory and legislative priorities that FDA deals with. For example, FDA rulemaking under the Food Safety and Modernization Act impacts every portion of our country, not just traditional farming regions.

Without an understanding of FDA and knowledge of the issues, it is fairly easy for a Congressional office to mostly hear negatives about the agency without a sense of balance about what FDA is doing and why. Ironically, during this week’s visits with the offices of Freshmen and Sophomore Members of the House, it was not uncommon to be asked questions to which the correct answer was: “because Congress told FDA to do it.”

Over time, this broader outreach — not just appropriations and authorizing committee members — is becoming an ever more important part of the Alliance’s activities. In this week’s meetings, we experienced the entire gamut of concerns and knowledge. In a few offices, staff sought sophisticated discussions about FSMA or the role of medical innovation in furthering the U.S. economy. In others, there was a profusion of genuine: “I didn’t know that” and more than a few “we will keep an eye out to make sure FDA gets the money it needs.”

When Members of Congress know FDA better, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will like the agency or some particular action it has taken. FDA understands and accepts this. However, if the Hill’s questions, concerns, even complaints, come from concrete understanding about the agency, then the back-and-forth dialogue should produce better laws, clearer policies and more benefit for the health of Americans and the advancement of innovation.

Note: This week’s Analysis and Commentary was written by Steven Grossman, the deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA

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