FDA last week received direct hiring authority for a number of key jobs essential to the review and oversight of new drugs. But while the move will help the agency fill vacant slots in the Office of New Drugs (OND) and other parts of the agency more quickly, it will take FDA years to absorb and train new employees, and new safety mandates imposed by Congress will continue to compete for resources with the agency's PDUFA objectives.
The new authority, granted by the Office of Personnel Management, will enable FDA to bypass some of the bureaucratic maze at a centralized HHS personnel office that has bedeviled its efforts to fill hundreds of positions that are funded by increased industry user fees approved by Congress last year.
The dysfunctional hiring system, which can take 3-6 months or longer to vet and approve an applicant, combined with pressure to ramp up new pre- and post-market safety systems, led FDA in January to give drug review division managers discretion to miss PDUFA deadlines (see BioCentury, March 3).
The new ability to hire candidates directly, rather than depend on HHS, should cut several weeks