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A Busy Year for FDA Legislation

With Congress on August recess, it is time to review and comment upon this year’s FDA-related legislation, which seems more far-reaching than usual. Matched with an activist agenda from FDA’s new leadership team, this could be a watershed year for the FDA.

A new law gives FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products, a massive new responsibility. It will be funded wholly by user fees. FDA is prohibited from using appropriated dollars for any tobacco activity. An announcement of a new center director is expected very soon. I discussed the tobacco center at: http://www.fdamatters.com/?p=303.

Before departing for recess, the Senate passed its version of the FY 10 Agriculture/FDA appropriations bill. Since it is similar to the House version and the President’s request, it seems certain that FDA will be getting $295M in additional appropriated funds. For a change, FDA funding should be in place before the new fiscal year starts.

The legislation presages two issues that will need to be addressed during the next two budget cycles:

  • ever harder questions about how new monies are contributing to improvements in the public health. FDA is conscious that more scrutiny is coming and expects to be ready.
  • tension between funding new FDA responsibilities and continuing to strengthen the long-underfunded agency core. My recent column exploring the consequences of “unfunded mandates” imposed on the agency is at: http://www.fdamatters.com/?p=375.

Food safety reform is the most likely to pass of the remaining FDA legislation. The House approved its version just before recess. The Senate is likely to respond and final legislation should reach the President within 6 months.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) developed an analysis of the House-passed food safety bill. Because the bulk of new mandates are not effective immediately, FDA costs will not increase in FY 10 and FY 11. However, even after subtracting income from new user fees, the cost reaches $368M in FY 12, $749M in FY 13, and about $1B in FY 14.  In short, FDA needs to grow by $1 billion in the next 5 years…just to cover new food responsibilities. Because it illustrates the unfunded mandates problem, I recommend the CBO report to those interested in FDA’s future: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/104xx/doc10478/hr2749.pdf.

Legislation creating a regulatory pathway for follow-on biologics (FOB) is the next most likely to pass, probably as part of health reform. While it produces 10-year net savings for governmental and private insurers, the benefit will not go to FDA. I have heard (but can’t verify) that it will cost $300M to set up the new program and about $150M per year for ongoing staffing and other costs. As with food, this is not a reason to oppose (or support) legislation, it is just an ongoing concern. My most recent analysis of FOB politics is at: http://www.fdamatters.com/?p=412.

Congress is again looking at drug reimportation. Although included in the Senate version of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill in July, it is likely to be stripped out in conference with the House. The issue will come up again because there are more than 50 Senators from both parties who favor reimportation. Were it to become law, it would have significant impact on FDA operations and funding.

In addition to FOB, health reform bills include other provision that will impact FDA directly. I will devote a later column to these miscellaneous FDA provisions, as well as some thoughts on how health reform itself might impact FDA.

A watershed year for FDA? It could be.


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