User Fee Sequestration Imminent as Congress and Obama Fails to Decide on Government-Wide Budget Cuts
On January 2, 2013, barely three months after FDA's new user fee programs go into effect, certain mandated spending reductions, called sequestration, also may go into effect that could prevent FDA from using the user fees it collects from industry. A Congressional Super Committee failed to find the required $1.2 trillion in cuts over ten years by a November 2011 deadline. The combined effect of lost taxpayer and user fees projected by Maryland-based Alliance for a Stronger FDA, would be an initial $294 million out of a $3.65 billion budget.
The catch comes from a component of FDA's user fee programs known as the "trigger" that requires a certain baseline of taxpayer funds to go to FDA, so industry user fees supplement rather than fund FDA's operations. FDA's projected funding for fiscal year 2013, set at $2.5 billion, would be cut by an across-the-board, 8% cut in federal government, coined as a "fiscal cliff", imposed to help curb the ever-increasing government debt. While FDA's cut of about $200 million would not normally hit the trigger to prevent FDA's use of user fees, Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, told Anna Edney from Bloomberg that the Obama Administration may still sequester FDA's user fee funds to help with federal spending reduction goals. The exact trigger levels, moreover, are based on formulas that include consumer inflation and past spending, which so far FDA has declined to comment on.
According to Grossman, if this occurs, about $68 million in drug and device user fees and $40 million in tobacco-company payments would be diverted to a U.S. Treasury Department account that would "reduce government because it would reduce what they can do." Faced with the sudden loss of these funds, drug industry experts have speculated that FDA would be forced to lay off personnel and take other measures to reduce costs.