The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates about one in every four dollars of consumer spending in the US.
Yet, despite this, an analysis of the FDA budget reveals the federal agency has been chronically underfunded. While the budgets of other agencies have grown, the FDA's is stagnant and increases over many years generally covered only salary hikes and rising rent.
Traditionally, the FDA has never spoken publicly about its budget, deferring to the public position taken by the Department of Health and Human Services or the Office of Management and Budget. Fortunately, the last two FDA commissioners, Andrew von Eschenbach and Margaret Hamburg, both broke that tradition and supported the need for increased funding.
To show support, the various FDA constituencies - food, drug, and medical device manufacturers, patient and consumer groups, professional societies - have also taken the unprecedented step of banding together for the sole purpose of persuading the Obama administration and Congress that the FDA must be better funded.
The FDA's constituencies formed the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, boasting more than 180 members, including individuals and companies, trade associations, patient and consumer groups, and professional organizations.
It has employed various strategic tactics to bring its message to Congress and the administration, including sponsoring an FDA education day on Capitol Hill, meeting congressional leaders, and media outreach when FDA resource issues are at stake.
For its part, the FDA has taken initiatives to reinforce the public's confidence. It recently identified nearly two-dozen changes that could make its decision-making more transparent and instituted a system under which each office is publicly accountable for reaching certain management goals.
FDA leaders and constituents agree strong regulatory oversight increases the chance that failures will be fewer and that confidence in food and drug supply stay high.
The nation has learned the same lesson about the financial system: effective regulation is needed to maintain public confidence in the system. A successful FDA serves everyone's best interests.
The Alliance is an example of disparate interests uniting with a singular, focused purpose, and being able to sit at the same table and strategize for a common in-terest. Our partisan city can learn a lot from such efforts.
Wayne Pines is president of regulatory services and healthcare for APCO Worldwide. He is also president of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.