Quantifying the Food and Drug Administration's Rulemaking Delays Highlights the Need for Transparency

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) frequently uses its rulemaking process to establish or modify the way it regulates drugs, medical devices, and other medical products.

The federal agency’s rulemaking is controversial because of its perceived complexity, lack of transparency, and lengthy duration.

To shed light on the FDA’s rulemaking process, the researchers examined the evolution of significant rules that the agency published during 2000–2012 for drugs, devices, and other medical products. They found that the rules’ median time to finalization was 7.3 years, with the pre-rule phase and postreview deliberation within the FDA accounting for the majority of that time. Rules that involved mandatory cost-benefit analyses were associated with an additional delay of approximately two years.

They also found that longer review times were significantly associated with a reduction in the stringency of final rules, compared to the originally proposed versions. They recommend improving FDA’s rulemaking by allocating additional resources to increase efficiency and by embarking on initiatives to promote transparency by the FDA and other parts of the executive branch.