FDA, NIH Chiefs to Congress: More Support, Less Meddling


Heads of the FDA and National Institutes of Health told a Senate panel that the public would be best served if Congress would simply give their agencies the support they need to do their jobs, with less heckling from the sidelines.

NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, and outgoing FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, came before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday to address ways that Congress can accelerate medical innovation.

This is a train thats on the track to the station and its going to get somewhere, saidChairman Lamar Alexander(R-Tenn.), noting that between President ObamasPrecision Medicine Initiativeand the House of Representatives 21st Century Cures legislation, Congress appears ready to act on these issues.

I believe every single member of this committee is interested in identifying what we can do to make it easier to move those drugs, treatments, and devices from discovery all the way through to the medicine cabinet, he said.

Alexander asked Hamburg and Collins how Congress could help their agencies advance this goal.

Collins gave Alexander two concrete suggestions. First, he asked that restrictions be loosened on his employees ability to travel to scientific meetings. Were currently spending about $16 million and using hundreds of employees to go through a [paperwork] process which has very little if any added value, he said, noting that the process was triggered bycontroversy over meeting expensesat another agency. Scientists going to conferences is a critical part of how new ideas emerge, and its being very much being inhibited by this heavy-handed oversight.