Smoke and mirrors on visas to increase U.S. FDA inspectors in China, WSJ says

Remember all the post-heparin-scare hoopla about the U.S. FDA increasing the number of inspectors on the ground in China to 26? Seven years later, it still has only three drug inspectors working full time and two temporarily, the total down from 8 last year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The problem, according to the FDA, is China's visa system, which is slow to grant permits to work there despite a couple of agreements between the two countries going back two years. The agency also has a budget problem, a spokesman told the Wall Street Journal, eased somewhat by $10 million shifted from the White House China Safety Initiative.

The spokesman said staffing in China usually fluctuates because of tours of duty assignments that require constant replacements. He said six members of the 10-person staff in the FDA's Beijing office received their visas only recently.

One possible solution the FDA is looking at, the spokesman said, is assigning inspectors for only two, three or 6 months, presumably to get around the visa problem.

- here's the story from the Wall Street Journal