NYTimes: The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Food and Drug Administration to postpone hundreds of drug company inspections, creating an enormous backlog that is delaying new drug approvals and leading the industry to warn of impending shortages of existing medicines.
…In an interview, F.D.A. officials said they sharply curtailed the inspections to protect their investigators, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which discouraged federal employees from travel during the pandemic.
But some people in both industry and public health communities say that federal drug inspections are essential, and that the agency should bypass travel restrictions by taking precautions, including wearing proper personal protective equipment.
…In interviews, F.D.A. officials denied that the dramatic drop in inspections has slowed drug approvals. But a number of drug companies, including Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Biocon Biologics and Bristol Myers Squibb, has issued statements noting deferred F.D.A. action because of the agency’s inability to conduct inspections.
In October, Spectrum announced that the F.D.A. had deferred action on its application for Rolontis, a treatment for cancer patients who have a very low number of certain white blood cells, because it could not inspect the manufacturing plant the company uses in South Korea.
In late December, Biocon Biologics notified shareholders that the F.D.A. deferred action on its joint application with Mylan for a proposed biosimilar to Avastin, a cancer drug.
Bristol Myers Squibb announced in November that the F.D.A. would miss its November deadline for taking action on a lymphoma treatment, lisocabtagene maraleucel because it could not inspect a third-party Texas manufacturing plant. The agency eventually did complete its inspection and approved the drug last month.
Grocery store workers are working, meat packers are working, hell bars and restaurants are open in many parts of the country but FDA inspectors aren’t inspecting. It boggles the mind.
Let’s review. The FDA prevented private firms from offering SARS-Cov2 tests in the crucial early weeks of the pandemic, delayed the approval of vaccines, took weeks to arrange meetings to approve vaccines even as thousands died daily, failed to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, failed to quickly approve rapid antigen tests, and failed to perform inspections necessary to keep pharmaceutical supply lines open.
I am a long-time critic of the FDA and frankly I am stunned at the devastation.