In The Washington Post, Marc Kaufman reports that the FDA has a backlog of more than 800 applications to bring new generic products to the market — an all-time high.
FDA, however, has told Congress that the office that reviews new generics needs no additional money, and the agency has no plans to hire more reviewers. “We are very aware that many, many people are waiting for more generics to be approved and that there is frustration about the backlog,” said Gary Buehler, director of the agency’s Office of Generic Drugs.
That generic response is completely unacceptable. The Office of Generic Drugs needs more reviewers and that means it needs more money.
The days of saying “we can do more with less” are over at the FDA. Today, unfortunately, it’s about doing less with less. That is not acceptable.
The generics office’s budget was about $26 million last year. In response to questions from Congress, the agency said the generics program would have to make cuts in 2006 to offset pay raises. Gary Buehler said he expects a record number of applications this year — and an even larger backlog — because “we don’t believe we’ll be getting any staff increases in 2006.” Buehler said his office received an all-time monthly high of 129 applications in December.
And he says he doesn’t need any more money?
“This huge backlog of generic applications is just unacceptable,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, one of the sponsors of the law that made generics more easily available two decades ago. “This is the time for the FDA to be ramping up its generic reviews, not to be falling so badly behind.”
I never thought I’d be saying this, but Mr. Waxman is 100% right. But talk is cheap. The question is, what’s he going to do about it?
Henry — show me the money.
Some at the agency and in the industry say the answer is to have generic-drug makers do what brand-name makers did in the early 1990s — pay user fees to finance new hires by the FDA.
Considering the huge profits enjoyed by the generic drug industry, I think this is certainly something to consider.