Andrew Von Eschenbach on FDA: “It’s a Team Few Appreciate”

Today, FDA, a punching bag for many in the media, released a list of its top accomplishments from 2006. The FDA Commissioner title is not an enviable one.  It presupposes unfunded mandates and small budgets, but also staff attrition and, now, negative public opinion. Then, too, the commissioner must dance around staff appointments and other political issues without alienating the nation's leader.  Not many people can do all of this well. As former FDA commissioner Frank Young recently remarked, quoting a former colleague, "Nobody ever won an award at FDA for doing something. The only person who did win recognition (drug reviewer Frances O. Kelsey, who won a Presidential medal and great acclaim for rejecting the application for thalidomide) won it for not doing something.  And this lesson has not been lost on the Agency." The Houston Chronicle just ran an interview with the FDA commissioner, who mentioned morale issues and drew attention back to the people working at the Agency, many of whom are very idealistic and talented, and could have opted for more lucrative careers in the industry but chose the civil service path instead.  How many CEO's would want to run such an underfunded enterprise?  And how can the Agency prevent its most talented and dedicated staffers from jumping ship?  I don't envy Dr. V.E.  But his colleagues are emphasizing science (despite tiny budgets ---consider the $6 million requested for Critical Path this year. PhRMA spends more than that each year on golf trips), and, given a few years, may ultimately prevail and turn public opinion around.  Here, in any case, is the article.
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