The committee is aware that consumer advocates, legislators, and others have asserted that the only solution to what, in their view, appear to be intractable problems in CDER with regard to ensuring drug safety and efficacy would be to create a separate center in FDA (or even a separate agency) to work on postmarketing safety. The committee acknowledges the legitimacy of the concerns that underlie such proposals, and it recognizes that if the full complement of recommendations made in this report fails to restore public trust in CDER’s (and FDA’s) credibility, competence, and appearance of independence, the secretary of DHHS and Congress may have no alternative but to mandate substantial structural changes in the agency. The committee believes, however, that if the recommendations made in this report are implemented fully and change is sustained, other, more drastic measures would be unnecessary. Safety and efficacy must always be in balance, and the ideal organizational solution is a team approach to assessing both. Achieving a balanced approach to the assessment of risks and benefits would be greatly complicated, or even compromised, if two separate organizations were working in isolation from one another. Premarket reviewers develop extensive knowledge based on years of experience of monitoring and reviewing the results of the premarket studies, and the system would stand to lose a great deal if that knowledge were excluded from postmarketing safety considerations.
As described above, the environment that shapes the culture of CDER and FDA is the product of societal expectations, legislative imperatives, and economic forces. PDUFA represents a convergence of these factors.
Although PDUFA has led to increases in the speed of review and has facilitated patient access to innovative drugs, it has also altered the environment in CDER, increased the pressure on reviewers to meet review deadlines, and perhaps even affected the agency’s relationship with sponsors. The presence of PDUFA performance goals for review timeliness has increased agency accountability to Congress and sponsors and has contributed to the success of this reform in increasing review speed over time. However, the existing PDUFA goals relate only to the speed of approval or non-approval decisions and do not also reflect goals related to safety. If PDUFA is reauthorized in 2007, the committee believes that the goals on which FDA reports to Congress need to include actionable performance goals for drug safety activities in the premarket and postmarketing periods to ensure that important agency functions receive sufficient resources. That would also help to demonstrate that timeliness and safety are valued equally, just as risks and benefits must be assessed together. There are now no explicit safety-related