Drug Safety: FDA Faces Challenges Overseeing the Foreign Drug Manufacturing Supply Chain
Globalization has placed increasing demands on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in ensuring the safety and effectiveness of drugs marketed in the United States. The pharmaceutical industry has increasingly relied on global supply chains in which each manufacturing step may be outsourced to foreign establishments. As part of its efforts, FDA may conduct inspections of foreign drug manufacturing establishments, but there are concerns that the complexity of the drug manufacturing supply chain and the volume of imported drugs has created regulatory challenges for FDA. FDA has begun taking steps to address some of these concerns, such as the establishment of overseas offices. This statement discusses (1) FDA's inspection of foreign drug manufacturing establishments, (2) the information FDA has on these establishments, and (3) recent FDA initiatives to improve its oversight of the supply chain. The statement presents findings based primarily on GAO reports since 2008 related to FDA's oversight of the supply chain. These reports include Food and Drug Administration: Overseas Offices Have Taken Steps to Help Ensure Import Safety, but More Long-Term Planning Is Needed (GAO-10-960, Sept. 30, 2010) and Drug Safety: FDA Has Conducted More Foreign Inspections and Begun to Improve Its Information on Foreign Establishments, but More Progress Is Needed (GAO-10-961, Sept. 30, 2010). GAO supplemented this prior work with updated information obtained from FDA in August and September 2011.