For all that consumers expect from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is completely irresponsible of the federal government to fund it with less than $2 billion a year. By comparison, that’s exactly the same dollars the federal government is spending each week on the war in Iraq.
Now some in Washington would argue that spending $2 billion a week on the war in Iraq is central to fighting the war on terror. But the FDA is also on the front lines of protecting the American people from terrorist threats against our food and drug supply. With the latest E. coli scare in the news, it became clear that the FDA does not have the resources for that particular fight to protect our citizens.
For that matter, the FDA doesn’t have near enough money to ensure that drugs distributed in this country aren’t fake or make sure that new drugs that the agency approves are safe. Given this lack of resources and respect for the multiple jobs the FDA is charged with doing, it is no wonder that many qualified staffers leave the agency for better paying jobs in industry.
A good first step to highlight this funding problem was taken last week by industry, consumer and patient groups. Leading this group asking for more FDA funding are the last three secretaries of the Health and Human Services Department: Tommy Thompson, Donna Shalala and Louis Sullivan. The FDA is part of HHS, but its budget has lagged behind the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.