Public confidence in the FDA shows improvement in a new poll but nearly half of Americans still feel the agency does a poor job of ensuring new drug safety and efficacy, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Forty-five percent of Americans surveyed in a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive health-care poll conducted on May 22-24 said the FDA is doing an excellent or good job in ensuring new prescription drug safety and efficacy.

That number is up from 36% in a poll conducted last year during the aftermath of national settlements over Merck’s painkiller Vioxx and safety recalls from stents and other medical devices. In 2004, 56% said the FDA was doing an excellent or good job.

Forty-nine percent of the nationwide cross section of 2,482 adults surveyed said the FDA is doing a fair or poor job on drug safety. Nearly 58% gave the agency fair to poor ratings on ensuring that innovative drugs come to market more quickly.

A majority of those surveyed said they were confident drug safety would be improved by recently passed Senate legislation to give the FDA new powers to fine drug companies for misleading ads.