Report: FDA faces a recruiting problem

Five years after an FDA board concluded that the agency had deep-rooted staffing problems, a new report concludes that while the regulator has made some progress, it still struggles to recruit and retain top talent.

The Partnership for Public Service took an all-encompassing look at the FDA, saying the agency lacks a systematic recruiting process, which makes it difficult to keep up with trends in drugs and devices. The Partnership's report points out that training programs are lacking, and the employees often don't feel the FDA is doing enough to help them advance their careers.

CDRH employees seem to be struggling the most. The device- and diagnostic-regulating arm of the FDA posted the most negative responses on employee satisfaction surveys, according to the report, citing dissatisfaction with management, insufficient support and an overly taxing workload. Only 59.5% of CDRH workers said their managers "maintain high standards of honesty and integrity," compared to 71.3% of drug evaluators and 69.8% of those who work with vaccines and biologics. In fiscal 2010, CDRH had a 5.8% attrition rate, the highest among the agency's departments.

Most alarming to the Partnership, however, is that continued pay freezes and a dearth of workforce development has made the agency an unattractive place to work for many; that problem, if allowed to metastasize, could imperil the FDA's ability to do its job.

"The FDA faces fierce competition for top candidates in the science and technical fields from private industry, which can offer more attractive salaries, and from other government agencies," reports the Partnership. "The key to attracting the right people is to focus on the tools FDA offers--the learning opportunities, the immediate impact and the opportunity to improve public health and make a difference in people's lives."

- read the report
- check out FierceBiotech's take