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FDA: A Bargain at Two Cents Per Day Per American

FDA touches every American many times each day. Today’s investment (2 cents per day per American) is a pittance compared to the benefit of a strong FDA and the risk of an underfunded FDA. There cannot be many agencies in the US government that have such a vast scope of responsibilities and so few dollars to get the job done.

This is the powerful message that the Alliance for a Stronger FDA has been delivering to Capitol Hill. Even still, it will be a difficult year for any federal agency whose mission and responsibilities are growing.

In recent testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the Alliance focused on the large gap between FDA’s responsibilities and resources. The Alliance also points to ways in which the agency’s job becomes tougher each year—notably through increased scientific knowledge and rapid industry globalization.

In the style of David Letterman’s Top Ten lists, the Alliance has its own list of 10 things they hope policymakers will know and remember about FDA:

  • FDA is a comparatively small agency with a small appropriation: just $2.35B in 2010 to regulate products that represent a quarter of all consumer spending.
  • Twenty-five years ago, FDA and CDC were the same size; today the CDC budget is nearly 2 1/2 times as large.
  • A strong FDA is good for the US economy and for our balance of trade.
  • FDA is an integral part of our response to public health emergencies, including defense against bioterrorism.
  • FDA’s appropriation is almost entirely staff costs, requiring nearly 6% increase each year to sustain program levels.
  • After three years of good increases (thank you, Congress), FDA staffing levels from the 2010 appropriation have only just been restored to the previous high-level achieved in 1994.
  • User fees serve valuable functions, but they are targeted and support only specific activities. They don’t strengthen the FDA in carrying out its overall public health mission.
  • All FDA stakeholders support a stronger FDA (consumers, patients, health professionals, and industry).
  • FDA’s responsibilities increase each year—through new mandates, globalization, and scientific complexity.

And the single most important reason (and the one raised at the beginning of this column):

  • FDA touches every American many times each day. Today’s investment (2 cents per day per American) is a pittance compared to the benefit of a strong FDA and the risk of an underfunded FDA.

To their credit, the Obama Administration has committed to cutting domestic spending by funding priority programs, rather than relying on across-the-board cuts. This is a challenge FDA can meet: showing that increased funding brings substantial benefits to the American people and is worthy of increases beyond what other agencies are getting.

Going from 2 cents to 3 cents per day doesn’t seem like much, but it would add $1 billion to the FDA budget.


For purposes of disclosure, I am one of the founders of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA and serve as its deputy executive director. FDA Matters is not affiliated in any way with the Alliance.

For more information about the Alliance, send me a note at sgrossman@strengthenfda.org.

The Alliance for a Stronger FDA’s House testimony is at:


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