FDA chief admits need for funding, reform

The FDA piggy bank isn't near full enough to overhaul operations as they ought to be, agency chief Andrew von Eschenbach admits. And that's a big admission; von Eschenbach is in essence agreeing with critics who've said his agency simply isn't up to the task of ensuring drug and food safety.

The FDA chief told the Wall Street Journal that he asked for a bigger budget increase than the some 3 percent the administration offered. He wouldn't specify how much he requested, but did say, "I think to do what we need to do requires substantially more dollars." And he went on to add that the agency needs a "systemic overhaul" that will take years to effect.

And in a bid to satisfy agency critics, the FDA is preparing to announce a new effort to police drugs after they're on the market. Divulged to staff yesterday, the plan will be presented on Capitol Hill tomorrow. Under the plan, the agency's Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, which monitors marketed drugs, will get new powers, and the agency will create a database of drug side effects. And premarket review divisions will each get their own new safety watchdogs. The aim? To make drug decisions more systematic and transparent

- see the von Eschenbach interview in the WSJ
- find more on the safety plan, also in the WSJ