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“All of Our Voices” Are Going to Be Essential

December 8, 2017

“Supporting FDA” does not define one’s political, ideological, or personal views of the world. Among FDA supporters, there are Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, consumerists and industrialists, and so on. The Alliance for a Stronger FDA is a big tent, and intentionally so. As long as you are for strengthening FDA’s ability to make science-based decisions, you are our kind of person, organization, or company.

With your support and active participation over the last decade, we have significantly moved the needle on two of our key goals. First, FDA is a bipartisan priority amongst appropriators. Thanks to leadership of a series of bipartisan Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members, FDA budget authority (BA) appropriations (taxpayer funding) has increased from $1.5 billion to $2.75 billion, nearly 90% growth over about 10 years. Of course, there is still more to do because FDA was so severely underfunded at the time, its mission and workload has doubled or tripled and the scientific sophistication required of the agency is exponentially greater than in the past. Also, in this budgetary environment, the risks of moving backwards are high. In tight budget years, appropriations success has to be measured by the cuts that didn’t happen, just as much as growth in the BA authority.

A second goal was to increase FDA’s stature among policymakers. A decade ago, Congressional and Executive Branch support for the agency was weak; the agency was constantly seen as “at fault” for anything in the food and drug arena that went wrong. With your support (and a lot of help on Capitol Hill from Members who rallied to the agency’s defense), we were able to change the mindset from “Let’s withhold funding to punish FDA for failure” to “Money and staff are needed so FDA can do its job well.”  With success in this area, comes the risk that policymakers see a highly-functioning agency and view the mission as accomplished, and move on to other priorities. When it comes to building capacity for science-based regulatory decisions, the job is never done.  Why? Because science is constantly evolving and the regulators need to be adapting at the same speed as the innovation they regulate.

Right now — and over at least the next several fiscal years — the greatest challenge FDA faces will be to continue its forward progress in an environment in which federal non-defense spending will be under incredible pressure. It will be even greater than what we’ve faced in the past and it has never been easy.

The Alliance’s task in 2018 (and beyond) is to deliver the message that FDA is unique and policymakers should further build-up an agency that is working well. Among other things: it simultaneously protects consumers, gives hope to patients, and helps grow the economy. Nothing impresses Capitol Hill more than meeting with an Alliance team that reflects the diversity of stakeholders who support a well-funded agency.

Help us develop and deliver the messages that will resonate with Congress in 2018. All of our voices will be needed if FDA is to continue to excel and improve while carrying out an ever-increasing set of responsibilities.

Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary Section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

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