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FDA’s Busy Summer of 2011

Once upon a time, Washington slowed a little over the summer. Those days are long gone…and this was a particularly busy summer. Congress went down to the deadline on the debt limit/deficit reduction legislation, then left town for August. There was a continuous stream of FDA headlines in June, July and August.

FDA Matters focused on a number of the most pressing issues: post-market safety and surveillance; barriers and opportunities for increased drug discovery and approvals; the rising tide of imports; prospects for biosimilars and medical devices; FDA funding; and various crises facing the agency.

Here is a recap of the summer’s stories:

FAQ: How Biosimilars Will Transform the Marketplace      August 21st, 2011

Biosimilars will be a huge success–used by most prescribers at least some of the time. Much of the current negativity about the market for biosimilars is fed by a mismatch of expectations: the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) is barely 18 months old, while the transformation of the marketplace will take a decade or longer. FDA Matters explores the likely evolution of the marketplace in a set of FAQs.  Read the rest of this entry

FDA Funding Prospects Altered by the Budget Control Act     August 14th, 2011

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) will have a heavy impact on FDA’s future. Under this new law, most discretionary spending programs will shrink—not merely cease to grow. Yet, FDA’s growing responsibilities and resource needs are not diminished because federal spending is being reduced. Our nation is less safe and less healthy if FDA cannot excel at its mission. Read the rest of this entry

People, Not Science, Make Decisions  August 8th, 2011

To FDA Matters, the people making the decisions at FDA are its strength. They are smart, conscientious and committed. Yet, when asked about bottlenecks at FDA, I have to admit that people slow the process down. There are good reasons why this is so. Read the rest of this entry

Medical Device Melodrama: A Great Story With a New Plot Twist  August 1st, 2011

Two years ago, FDA Matters urged FDA and Congress to review the 510(k) approval process for moderate-risk medical devices and predicted meaningful changes that would work for FDA, industry and consumers. FDA and industry have been proceeding along these lines (albeit with some tough negotiating and lots of rhetoric)…until the Institute of Medicine (IOM) declared that the current system is so flawed that a new regulatory framework is needed.  Read the rest of this entry

FDA, Reorganization and the Four Crises    July 24th, 2011

Dr. Hamburg’s reorganization plan addresses four crises that beset the agency: industry discontent with the medical product review process; public concern about import safety; implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act; and Congressional concerns that the agency is inefficient in its use of resources. The new structure should drive better decisonmaking and greater productivity…. at a time when the agency is struggling to fulfill its growing mission and faces the potential for budget cuts.  Read the rest of this entry

Complexity, Uncertainty, Unpredictability: Not Necessarily Bars to FDA Approvals      July 17th, 2011

In most discussions of science and medicine, there is an implicit assumption that the human body is a complex biological machine. “The human body as a machine” is a metaphor, not a fact. Once we accept this, FDA Matters believes we can become liberated from unrealistic expectations about medical discovery and FDA’s role as a gatekeeper for new products that benefit patients. Read the rest of this entry

Should FDA Have an Independence Day?     July 4th, 2011

FDA Matters thinks that making FDA an independent agency will not make FDA more effective or more efficient. Although the idea is not truly harmful, proposing independent agency status is a seductive distraction from the tough job of improving FDA. Read the rest of this entry

Imports: FDA Issues a Cry for Help   June 26th, 2011

 No challenge to FDA’s mission looms larger than the rapid globalization of the world markets for food, drugs, medical devices and other FDA-regulated products. By way of making this point, the FDA released a special report, entitled “Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality.”  FDA Matters read the report carefully and heard a cry for help, if not an actual primal scream. Read the rest of this entry

Post-Market Safety: Getting the Most Out of Inferences That Aren’t Proofs   June 21st, 2011

FDA has expanded its post-market efforts, including development of a monitoring system (called Sentinel) that will be able to track drug usage and medical history information on tens of millions of patients. Although such information will be useful, it can only provide post-hoc inferences, not proof of causation. Even with this limitation, FDA Matters thinks developing the system is worthwhile and may provide multiple benefits.  Read the rest of this entry




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