Monday, May 08, 2006

Not An Excuse

Trying to rewrite the past is becoming a popular activity lately. Some of us protested that when they wanted to shorten the testing times for new drugs, but we were brushed off as extremists. Mad cow? Only in the White House.
Wrongly Blaming The FDA: "FDA scientists have done as they promised -- new drugs have been sped to market, and the FDA leads the world in approval times. But the companies often fail to do the needed safety studies, and Congress has taken no steps to allow the agency to compel them. FDA scientists also recognized that rapid drug approvals can miss important safety indicators and requested funding to create state-of-the-art systems to monitor drug safety. The new dollars that the White House proposed and Congress provided for this come to a nice round number: zero.

These are not isolated examples. They are part of a pattern of neglect by officials of both parties in the White House and Congress. FDA scientists warned almost a decade ago that mad cow disease would inevitably strike in the United States, and they sought help to prevent it. No help came, but the disease did. The FDA was raising alarms about the dangers of bioterrorism as far back as the Reagan administration. Again, no money, no attention. Also at that time, FDA officials began pleading for resources -- mostly to no avail -- to inspect the ever-increasing flood of foods imported from 130 countries, including Sudan, Iran, Iraq and Colombia, to name a few examples. The list of problems identified by the FDA, then ignored, goes on and on.

For most of the FDA's 100-year history, presidents and congresses have recognized its importance to public health by giving it the resources and authority to respond to the rapid evolution in risks from the thousands of products it regulates. But for some years now, the agency's budget has remained essentially flat while major new responsibilities have been piled on. The results of this weakening of the agency are easy to document: Food inspections have dropped from a robust 50,000 in 1972 to about 5,000 today, meaning that U.S. food processors are inspected on average about every 10 years. The chance of a food product from overseas being inspected is infinitesimal. Most raw materials for our drugs come from foreign producers that are rarely inspected. The rate of quality-control failures found in manufacturing facilities by FDA inspectors has soared. Think your pacemaker, heart valve, microwave oven or morning vitamin was inspected? Dream on."
If our ports can't be inspected properly why should our food? Sheesh, you'd think that our taxes would go towards protecting us instead of giving Congress raises they don't deserve.

No comments:

Post a Comment