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Congress is seeking funding for additional federal safety inspectors and for an increase in the policing of overseas suppliers. This moves comes after the influx of contaminated drugs, pet food and toothpaste from China. The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, has stated the agency needs more resources, acknowledging the fact that only eight percent of the 3,000 foreign firms shipping drugs to the United States are inspected. He estimates an additional 500 inspectors and $70 million are needed in funding to bolster the foreign drug inspections. The agency’s science board claims the FDA has lost more than $300 million in funding due to inflation, even though it has had the responsibility of putting 123 new laws into effect.

Critics have been disapproving of the FDA’s inspection process with the string of recalled Chinese products, including the drug heparin. The FDA is trying to fix its inspection program before another heparin tragedy happens. The Senate recently passed a resolution that gives the FDA an extra $375 million, however, it is unlikely the Bush administration will give the FDA a considerable increase. The members of Congress think the best option is to lay the foundation for more funding and hope the next administration is more receptive of the resolution. House Democrats are also drafting a proposal that would give the agency more funding and the Republicans are voicing their support for some of the ideas.

Von Eschenbach does recognize that increased funding and staffing is not the entire solution. The agency should also rely on outside firms to certify facilities and target unsafe imports. The FDA has also been talking to the governments of China and India about placing U.S. inspectors there. The Bush administration has issued its own import safety plan, which stresses the need to work with foreign governments and U.S. manufacturers to ensure the quality of production and supplies.




The Bush administration needs to do more than just attempt to work with foreign governments regarding this safety issue.  Concrete action should have been taken years ago, and yet the problem was ignored.  The enforcing and policing of these manufacturers, as it stands now, is left for the most part to trial lawyers. 

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