Hamburg aims to defend FDA from budget ax

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg is trying to forestall any talk of cutting her agency's funding. After all, Republicans say they'll take control of the House with their budget axes sharpened. And given that they've ruled out cuts to Medicare, Social Security and the military--85 percent of federal spending by some measures--it's government agencies that are likely to take the hit.

FDA just got a funding boost a couple of years ago after a comprehensive review of the agency found lots of fraying in the regulatory fabric. The agency got the OK to hire hundreds of workers, spend millions to update dinosaur-age technology and beef up inspections, especially overseas. With Congress still criticizing FDA oversight--and, in a letter this week, questioning whether the agency has enough staff in some offices--you'd think that budget boost would be safe.

But Washington doesn't always operate logically. So Hamburg used her speech at the Reuters Health Summit to remind the world that the FDA needs its money--and that public health depends on it. "Not every function of government can be cut to the same degrees using the same tools," Hamburg said. "I think we should proceed with real care...It should be recognized if we can't do our job and do it well there isn't any other entity that will backstop behind us."

- read the Reuters coverage

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