What is the FDA?
The FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, is the government agency responsible for testing and certifying the safety of a wide range of products. Food items, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, and cosmetics are just a sample of the things which the FDA regulates. Pharmaceutical products, for example, have to go through a lengthy approval process in which the FDA weighs a drug’s potential benefits against its potential risks and decides whether or not to allow the drug on the public market. Thus, the FDA’s job is to keep dangerous and defective foods, medicines, and cosmetics out of the hands of consumers.
Criticisms of the FDA
The FDA’s sweeping authority and regulatory powers often make it the target of criticism and protest from big business and consumer advocacy groups alike. This controversy, spurred on from both sides by economists, lobbyists, legislators, advocates, interest groups, and ordinary citizens, shows little sign of resolution even today.
On one side of the argument are those who believe that the FDA is an unnecessary hindrance. From this point of view, the FDA is the consummate red-tape bureaucracy – slow, mindless, and unresponsive. Its laborious approval process is blamed for delaying the release of potentially life-saving drugs and driving up consumer prices due to a restricted supply. In response to such criticism, legislation was passed which authorized the FDA to release drugs for terminal patients at an earlier stage of the approval process.
On the other hand, many people and organizations feel that the FDA is actually failing to carry out its regulatory duty. In their eyes, the FDA’s regulations and policies aren’t stringent enough to protect the public from dangerous drugs and products. Advocates from this camp claim that the FDA is too heavily influenced by the political and financial clout of large corporations. Furthermore, they are critical of government budgets which fail to provide adequate funds for FDA testing and regulatory programs.
All in all, it is easy to see why FDA officials may find it difficult to find a happy medium between these two opposing camps. Unfortunately, when the FDA acts – or fails to act – in accordance with one view or the other, the consumers are the ones to suffer. If regulations are too strict, important products may not reach the market in time; if they are too lax, dangerous substances may find their way into the hands of our children.