Critics decry FDA consulting deals

The FDA is drawing fire for hiring outside consultants to train managers and assess operations. The agency has contracted with management consultants McKinsey & Co. for more than $17 million in work since 2008, including $10 million this year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Among McKinsey's jobs so far: Checking out the backlog of generic-drug applications to find out why 2,000 requests for approval are awaiting FDA action. McKinsey discovered that, in half of those cases, the agency is awaiting extra info requested from applicants. "Why on earth are FDA managers spending money for a consultant to tell them why they have a backlog of generic drug applications?" asked Rep. Joe Barton, a seasoned FDA critic.

FDA officials said that work was only a small part of McKinsey's role at the agency. But the WSJ also questioned some training provided by Leadership Performance Solutions, using the Antietam battlefield as a backdrop for urging FDA managers to make tough decisions (Gen. George McClellan didn't follow through after the bloody battle, and President Lincoln fired him soon after). One FDA official liked the program, but some other anonymous sources told WSJ that the seminars didn't benefit them much.

Of course, private businesses spend plenty on leadership training. And a chorus of political voices say that government would work much better if it was "run like a business." But that doesn't mean they want their agencies to hire expensive consultants like businesses do.

- read the WSJ story