FDA should be independent agency, former commissioners say
- Six former Food and Drug Administration commissioners,who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents, called for the FDA to become an independent agency rather than part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Politico reports.
- Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, the former commissioners advocated for the FDA to be elevated to Cabinet-level status as a way to reduce bureaucracy and increase the agency's profile.
- The six commissioners included the recent agency head Margaret Hamburg, as well as Andrew von Eschenbach, Mark McClellan, Jane Henney, David Kessler, and Frank Young.
According to Aspen Ideas, the FDA regulates over $1 trillion of consumer products, giving it oversight over a broad swath of the U.S. market.
But the FDA is still organized and funded as a subset of HHS, adding a layer of top-level management over the FDA commissioner and limiting the ability to communicate directly with the executive branch.
Frank Young, commissioner from 1984 to 1989, recounted how during his tenure he could reach the vice-president but never the president to discuss regulatory matters, in comments quoted by Stat.
A number of decisions made by the FDA have been either delayed or overturned in recent memory, including when HHS overruled the FDA's recommendation to make the morning after pill available over the counter.
Giving the FDA independence would be a major bureaucratic reorganization and diminish the scope of HHS' authority.