The current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) system of regulating drug safety has serious limitations and is in need of changes. The major problems include the following: the design of initial preapproval studies lets uncommon, serious adverse events go undetected; massive underreporting of adverse events to the FDA postmarketing surveillance system reduces the ability to quantify risk accurately; manufacturers do not fulfill the majority of their postmarketing safety study commitments; the FDA lacks authority to pursue sponsors who violate regulations and ignore postmarketing safety study commitments; the public increasingly perceives the FDA as having become too close to the regulated pharmaceutical industry; the FDA's safety oversight structure is suboptimal; and the FDA's expertise and resources in drug safety and public health are limited. To address these problems, we urge Congress, which is ultimately responsible for the FDA's performance, to implement the following 5 recommendations: (1) give the FDA more direct legal authority to pursue violations, (2) authorize the adoption of a conditional drug approval policy, at least for selected drugs, (3) provide additional financial resources to support the safety operations, (4) mandate a reorganization of the agency with emphasis on strengthening the evaluation and proactive monitoring of drug safety, and (5) require broader representation of safety experts on the FDA's advisory committees.
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