FDA funding set to jump as Congress votes to avert shutdown

U.S. Capitol at dusk
Congress voted strongly in favor of the spending bill. (Pixabay)

Congress has approved a budget deal to avert another government shutdown. The deal, which was signed into law on Friday by President Trump, includes the biggest increase in FDA funding in several years.

Trump committed to signing the deal, despite it featuring far less money for the border wall than he wanted, one day before the cessation of a temporary funding agreement would have triggered another government shutdown. Once Trump backed the bill, the House and Senate swiftly voted in favor of it by large majorities.

The bill (PDF) includes $3.08 billion in discretionary funding for the FDA. That is around $100 million less than was requested in the president’s budget but still represents a $269 million, or 9%, increase over 2018. The one-year jump is a similar size to the increase in FDA funding from 2015 to 2018.

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FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) fared significantly better than other parts of the agency. When FDA submitted its budget request for 2018, it listed the annualized budget for CDER, excluding user fees and field work, at $353 million. This year, CDER is set to receive $525 million, an increase of almost 50%, despite Congress approving slightly less funding than requested. 

While the overall increase in CDER funding is huge, Congress’ ideas about how the FDA should use the money differ from those of the agency. Congress has approved $43 million for a “new platform for drug development." That figure is below the number cited in FDA’s request, which sought $58 million for the drug development platform. 

The money the FDA wanted for the drug development platform looks set to go toward activities including the handling of the opioid epidemic. The FDA asked for an additional $10 million to address the opioid addiction crisis. The appropriations bill features an extra $47 million.

While some details of the request and bill differ, the overall result is that the FDA has pulled off a bold pitch for a significant hike in its funding, which is particularly notable given Trump’s early opposition to increasing spending. The previous budget Trump put forward in 2017 proposed slashing discretionary funding to the FDA by 31% and relying on user fees to cover the cuts. Now, Trump looks set to sign off on a big increase in discretionary funding.

The Alliance for a Stronger FDA, which is “extremely pleased” by the appropriations bill, praised FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and his colleagues for making the initial pitch for a hike in funding. 

“They started the FY 19 dialogue with a very large request and enumeration of specific areas for where the funding growth was needed. This set the tone for the year,” the alliance wrote in a statement.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article erroneously stated the FDA received $5 million for its Oncology Center for Excellence. The FDA actually received $5 million on top of a $15 million base budget, meaning the agency got the $20 million in requested. 

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