Chinese staffer key to negotiating deal to bolster FDA staff in China

Dr. Lixia Wang

Vice President Joe Biden weighed in with the Chinese on the FDA's efforts to negotiate an agreement to bump up its inspection staff in the country. So did former FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. But it is locally employed (LE) FDA staffer Lixia Wang who has won the prize, in part for her efforts to help seal the deal.

Dr. Wang has been been given the HHS LE Staff of the Year Award, selected from among more than 1,700 peers in 60 countries that work for the FDA. Wang, who started with the Office of the HHS Health Attaché in China in 2006, moved to the FDA in 2009 as a medical research scientist. "Dr. Wang was essential in the negotiations of bilateral agreements for the placement of additional staff in China," Mary Lou Valdez, FDA's associate commissioner for international programs, explains in a post on the FDA blog. "With Dr. Wang's contributions, FDA finalized these important agreements, which pave the way for FDA to more than triple its staff size in China."

After securing additional funding from Congress in 2012, the FDA decided some of that money would go toward boosting its staff there from about a dozen to about 40. But it has been slow going, with Chinese officials holding up work visas for staff there. Biden button-holed Chinese officials about the issue in 2013, and last fall, Hamburg had face-to-face meeting with top Chinese officials to try to get the final OK.

The reason for a China office is in the numbers. China produces most of the active pharmaceutical ingredients for drugmakers around the world and many food products that U.S. consumers, and their pets, eat. Its efforts on oversight, however, have often fallen short. In fact, the FDA opened its first-ever overseas office there to do its own drug inspections after dozens of U.S. deaths of dialysis patients in 2008 were tied to tainted Chinese-made crude heparin in their blood thinners.

And who played a key role in negotiations of binding agreements with the Chinese government on the safety of FDA-regulated products and on the opening of that overseas office? Valdez said it was Wang.

- read the blog post