June 01, 2008
Dingell blasts FDA head over funding
FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach was directed to “stop the buzzwords and toe-dancing” during intense, aggressive questioning by House Energy and Commerce chairman John D. Dingell (D-MI) at an acrimonious Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the agency's inability to prevent the entry of contaminated products.
The angry lawmaker was clearly fed up with the commissioner's failure to say exactly how much money the FDA needs to inspect foreign drugmakers as frequently as domestic ones. Dingell repeatedly interrupted von Eschenbach's attempts to respond with answers not specific enough for his inquisitor.
In the end, the commissioner used recent rough calculations from the Government Accountability Office—$45,000 per inspection multiplied by 3,000 facilities or roughly $70 million per year to inspect each foreign drug firm every two years.
Dingell lost patience with von Eschenbach's responses on how the agency wants to make systematic changes. “I'm establishing that you don't have the resources and you can't do your job,” he told the commissioner. “You know I've been in this business a long time and I've had FDA commissioners constantly tell me ‘Oh we are going to have a new means of doing this, and we are going to be leaner and meaner.' It turns out that they are leaner and poorer and weaker and less capable of doing their job. And all these promises that I get from FDA commissioners about how they are going to do better turn out to be nothing more or less than, quite frankly, phooey.”
“I've been talking to FDA commissioners for 40 years,” Dingell continued, “and you are not the first fellow I've skinned for not doing his job and coming up here defending an indefensible situation. I want to maintain my respect for you, but I can't maintain my respect for you if you keep toe dancing around the hard facts that curse you with the inability to do your job because you don't have the resources.”
“Mr. Chairman, I agree with you that we need more resources,” von Eschenbach eventually replied.