The United States Food and Drug Administration is the government agency responsible for regulating food, dietary supplements, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, biologics and blood products in the United States. The FDA is led by the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Commissioner reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The FDA has its headquarters in unincorporated White Oak, Maryland. The agency also has 223 field offices and 13 laboratories located throughout the 50 states, the United States Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. In 2008, the FDA began to post employees to foreign countries, including China, India, Costa Rica, Chile, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.
What is the role of the FDA?
FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable and by helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to maintain and improve their health. FDA also has responsibility for regulating the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by minors.
Finally, FDA plays a significant role in the Nation’s counterterrorism capability. FDA fulfills this responsibility by ensuring the security of the food supply and by fostering development of medical products to respond to deliberate and naturally emerging public health threats.
Scope and Funding
The FDA regulates more than US$1 trillion worth of consumer goods, about 25% of consumer expenditures in the United States. This includes $466 billion in food sales, $275 billion in drugs, $60 billion in cosmetics and $18 billion in vitamin supplements. Much of these expenditures are for goods imported into the United States; the FDA is responsible for monitoring imports.
Most federal laws concerning the FDA are part of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, (first passed in 1938 and extensively amended since) and are codified in Title 21, Chapter 9 of the United States Code. Other significant laws enforced by the FDA include the Public Health Service Act, parts of the Controlled Substances Act, the Federal Anti-Tampering Act, as well as many others. In many cases these responsibilities are shared with other federal agencies.
New Medicine Scrutiny by FDA
New drugs receive extensive scrutiny before FDA approval in a process called a New Drug Application (NDA). New drugs are available only by prescription by default. A change to over-the-counter (OTC) status is a separate process, and the drug must be approved through an NDA first. A drug that is approved is said to be "safe and effective when used as directed."
Generic drugs are chemical equivalents of name-brand drugs whose patents have expired. In general, they are less expensive than their name brand counterparts, are manufactured and marketed by other companies and, in the 1990s, accounted for about a third of all prescriptions written in the United States. For approval of a generic drug, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires scientific evidence that the generic drug is interchangeable with or therapeutically equivalent to the originally approved drug. This is called an "ANDA" (Abbreviated New Drug Application). As of 2012 80% of all FDA approved drugs are available in generic form.