WASHINGTON In an effort to fix the problems at the Food and Drug Administration regarding inspections and the safety of drugs being imported into the country, the Senate passed a budget resolution on Friday to give the agency an additional $375 million, a 20 percent increase over this year, according to The New York Times.
One number showed that, while there are 566 plants in China—where the recent heparin scare occurred—that export drugs to the U.S., only 13 of them were inspected by the FDA last year.
The agency does not have the money to inspect many more, and the Bush administration has no plans to fix this problem. The administration’s budget calls for a 3 percent increase in allocated funds next year, not enough to keep up with rising costs.
“Congress has a responsibility to close the glaring gaps in food and drug safety that have begun to overwhelm the FDA,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who pushed for the new financing.
But the money is not assured, as President Bush has threatened to veto appropriations that go beyond his requests.
With this uncertainty, many in Congress have considered using a user-fee system to pay for foreign inspections. “Why should the taxpayer pay for these inspections so that you can close a plant here and open it over there to ship it back?” Sen. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. said. “It will be sustainable income so that we don’t have to get into these budget battles every year.”
But even this idea has received criticisms from other groups, such as Public Citizens. It argues that it would be a “terrible idea” because it would lead the agency to become lax with those who pay their salaries.