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‘Dr. Stranger’

More than 50 percent of consumer products in all Filipino homes undergo some form of screening, testing or review by the Food and Drug Administration. There is no doubt that among the gatekeepers or regulatory agencies in all countries, the FDA is one of the most vital and under-appreciated.

It was only during the COVID pandemic when FDAs around the world received both positive and negative attention and when people began to understand what such an agency does, why it does it and of course the consequent red tape or delays that crop up. It was also between 2020 and 2021 when many Filipinos realized how underfunded the FDA was.

Just to refresh your memory, here are just some of the vast responsibilities of the Philippine FDA:

• To establish safety or efficacy standards and quality measures for foods, drugs and devices and cosmetics and other health products;

• To undertake appropriate health manpower development and research, responsive to the country’s health needs and problems;

• To assume primary jurisdiction in the collection of samples of health products;

• To analyze and inspect health products;

• To establish analytical data to serve as basis for the preparation of health products standards, and to recommend standards of identity, purity, safety, efficacy, quality and fill of container;

• To issue certificates of compliance with technical requirements to serve as basis for the issuance of appropriate authorization and spot-check for compliance with regulations regarding operation of manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, wholesalers, drug outlets and other establishments and facilities of health products, as determined by the FDA;

• To conduct appropriate tests on all applicable health products prior to the issuance of appropriate authorizations to ensure safety, efficacy, purity and quality.

Because of underfunding and the related overreach in responsibilities, the FDA has been susceptible to bureaucratic red tape, poor performance and a tendency to create bottlenecks and delays. Even the appointment of a relatively young physician named Dr. Samuel Zacate has not won over fans for the FDA.

The column today is entitled “Dr. Stranger” because