FDA begins major hiring initiative; drug evaluation gets boost

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The FDA has hired 1,317 people, representing a 10 percent increase in staff, after years of losing many qualified employees to the private sector or retirement.

In May, the agency began the hiring initiative, which is aimed at biologists, chemists, medical officers, mathematical statisticians, investigators and inspectors.

FDA officials reported that about 1,000 of the new hires have already started working, with another 158 set to report later this month. An additional 160 workers have accepted offers and are currently undergoing background checks.

Of those at work, the FDA said that more than 850 are professionals, such as biologists, chemists, pharmacologists, statisticians, medical officers, field inspectors and microbiologists. The agency also said that 770 of the 1,317 positions are newly created jobs, while 547 are posts vacated by staff leaving the agency for other jobs or retirement. 

The largest number of new jobs within the agency is for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, which analyzes new medications and monitors the safety of drugs on the market. The center will get 663 new personnel while the smaller food safety program will see a 10 percent increase with an additional 104 people. The agency’s enforcement branch, which had lost many field inspectors, will attain 245 new staffers.

The FDA said it struggled to fill certain positions, such as cancer specialists. While the agency hired nine, another 20 turned down offers.

Congress approved the hiring initiative and the Bush administration granted the agency special authority to make on-the-spot offers.