Former FDA Inspector Calls for Increased International Inspections

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Patrick Stone, President, TradeStone QA

Here’s an idea: More FDA inspections outside the US, at a lower cost.


If FDA trained other countries health organizations to conduct FDA business with Memorandums of Understanding (MOU), less money could be used to travel with more inspections completed. This training could be accomplished online and by going out with FDA International Investigators. The EMA should have a MOU if their model is similar to FDA’s. The advent of all electronic review should alleviate the need for more international inspections.

I admit I may be over-simplifying the issues with training monies and bringing foreign inspectors to US training facilities. But I think the basic idea holds water.

Host nations can send their inspectors for knowledge sharing and training with justifiable beneifits to the host nations public health. FDA can also video link for training, as is done currently for new hire training.

FDA logoUnfortunately, innovative options are scarce at the FDA Senior Executive Service level (SES) and the old way of doing business is ingrained into the government model. For the short term FDA will try to increase international inspections in all program areas with a focus on food work.

I’ve observed many international drug and device firms receiving warning letters and multiple item 483 forms. If this current warning letter trend continues, the blame may fall on lack of FDA regulatory guidance.

The core mission of FDA is to protect the US public from harmful health products. Sending FDA field Investigators to where the products are manufactured and undergo human clinical trials is one of the only ways to accomplish the core mission. Ensuring that field investigators are proficient for the task and seasoned investigators stay engaged will be the challenge.

The international firms with compliance issues should be reviewed by their country’s FDA equivalent for cross training on regulatory compliance.

On the job training is used here at home as a component of new hire training. FDA will have to think outside the box if Congressional Mandates for International travel are to be met.

Congress must also understand that it is not only the amount of funds that insure successful international travel, it is also about proficient field investigators as well.

I have faith that FDA field staff will answer the challenge because they always do.

Patrick Stone is the author of Bubble Gum Badge – An FDA His-Story. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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