Before the Alliance’s founding a decade ago, advocacy on behalf of FDA’s resources was sporadic and mostly focused on increased funding for some specific part of FDA. Yet, from the beginning the Alliance was strongly committed to advocacy for the entire agency. I don’t recollect there was much discussion on this point — it was just clear that all of FDA needed help after years of under-funding.
The philosophy of “a rising tide lifts all boats” was certainly on our minds then, as it is now. Some years medical products has gotten more funding; other years food and related areas have gotten most of the increased resources. Over the decade, additional resources were added to all components of the agency’s important public health work, just as we thought it should. But there were other, less-cliched reasons for supporting all of FDA and not just pieces of it.
First, FDA is a public health agency with regulatory authority and a commitment to science-based decision-making. This characterization applies to all of FDA’s jurisdiction and activities. Improvements in regulatory science — and innovation generally — spreads through the agency as lessons are learned about what works and what doesn’t. All of FDA benefits from the experiences that occur in each of its parts.
Second, all industries regulated by FDA benefit from the agency’s stellar standing in both the US and abroad. In the mid-2000s, it seemed like an under-funded FDA was in hot water constantly, whether a crisis in food safety or problems with medical products being recalled. The lesson became clear: any undermining of FDA credibility becomes generalized. Logic may tell us that problems are specific to the part of the FDA involved … but the perception is that FDA is one agency that is “trustworthy or not” and “heading in the right direction or not.”
Our conclusion: whatever makes the FDA stronger (in resources) is good for everybody.
Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary Section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.