Thursday, November 3, 2016

FDA short-staffed?

Via John Carroll's Endpoints e-mail, this piece from Kaiser Health News on FDA job openings: 
The Food and Drug Administration has more than 700 job vacancies in its division that approves new drugs, and top officials say the agency is struggling to hire and retain staff because pharmaceutical companies lure them away. 
“They can pay them roughly twice as much as we can,” Janet Woodcock, who directs the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), said at a rare-diseases summit recently in Arlington, Va. 
The FDA has been under fire for taking too long to approve new drugs, despite approving a record number of generic drugs in 2015. Although it met its goal of hiring 1,000 new employees to help clear the backlog of unapproved generics, that program had nearly 200 job vacancies as of Sept. 30. And CDER itself had 711 openings out of 5,525 positions at the end of September, according to spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman — meaning that more than 1 out of 8 positions were empty. 
Most openings have occurred as the result of new laws or initiatives increasing the FDA’s workload and creating new positions. The agency has had a difficult time accelerating its hiring in response, but the pace has picked up, Eisenman said. CDER continues to utilize employees borrowed from elsewhere within the FDA and contract workers to help fill the breach....
Well, there's at least one chemist opening at CDER right now...

16 comments:

  1. "revolving door public service"

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  2. Well, maybe they shouldn't take so long to hire people. I feel like I've submitted several applications to the FDA and most of the time, there is zero feedback as to whether my application has advanced beyond "received". Anyone looking for a job won't sit on their hands waiting around for the FDA to get back to them - they're going to be applying to a lot of places and take whichever opportunities are good and come along first.

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    1. I've got a couple applications on USAJobs that still haven't moved beyond received- after two years. I don't think I'm going to be getting an offer. On the other hand it's pretty easy to have two or three CVs set up and you can submit an application in a few minutes.

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    2. @anon Me too, nothing's happened. I used to be a reviewer there about 10 years ago, it's not a bad gig. But I can't get them to budge on my application. Frustrating.

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    3. Me three. I've got one that's been referred to the hiring official since August of 2015.

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  3. Janet Woodcock says industry pays twice as much. Position listed by CJ starts at $92K. I've been working in industry for a few years and I'm not remotely close to $180K, I'm only making a little more than the $92K. Something tells me her judgment may be a bit askew. Then again, this is the person who approved eteplirsen despite protests from other reviewers that low efficacy in a 12-person trial wasn't enough evidence to push it through. Coincidentally, stories have surfaced that people left the agency over her actions. I'm sure it's unrelated though.

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    1. How much do people in industry working regulatory affairs get? I don't think she's comparing to bench chemists.

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    2. I think the problem is once people get few years of experience working at FDA (and the personal contacts there), pharma or biotech is rather keen at snatching them, and offers a lot more than the government can pay.

      I heard of a single mom nurse who worked at a dialysis unit in a rather crappy hospital in a ghetto. She could not take it anymore (all her patients poor, neglected and dying), she went to FDA, did good there, then she hired away on generous terms by a biotech firm - to help them with approval of their drug candidate. The drug got approved and she retired well off still in her 40s.

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  4. I went to an FDA career fair in DC a few years ago. I never was able to get into the venue before it ended because of the massive line that had been forming since early in the morning. The whole thing was so disorganized, under-staffed and woefully unprepared for the huge crowds that were attracted to it. Judging by the crowd, it looked like every unemployed person in DC was lined up to take a shot at a government job.

    The whole incident really turned me off to the FDA as an organization since I had actually taken a few days off from work to drive to DC to check it out only to be disappointed and coming away from it empty-handed.

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  5. Don't cry for the FDA. When I was a postdoc at NIH and looking into careers after I decided to leave the bench, I really tried to get in at CDER. Nobody would speak with me. Ph.D. organic with good pub record and never would I hear a word from any inquiry that I submitted. I applied for careers through their site, through contacts and through internal job offers that I fit to a tee. I would have been happy to work there and they were supper uncommunicative. I tried, they failed! My neighbor worked in CDER and even he couldn't get any traction for me. He did tell me the biggest problems were the bosses wanted everyone to be from Harvard with top everything out of Schreiber's or Corey's labs (dating myself a little). I explained that that was a stupid philosophy for hiring in these types of positions. Your much better off getting someone from a good state school with a good track record.

    I moved on with my life. I thought it would be fun but screw the FDA and their hiring. Oh, and it's funny how when they hire their ideal candidates they've had these problems or insider trading issues. HA!

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  6. Yup, the whole argument that FDA can't pay enough is specious. Same career tract as AUSA's---work 10 years for Uncle Sam for a small salary then go work at big pharm for half mill+/year (or mill plus for lawyers joining midtown firms at partner).

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  7. I know a working Ph.D. toxicologist who's told me that the FDA has a booth every year at the annual Soc. of Toxicology meeting. She said that they all used to joke that no one ever got a job with the FDA, not even one of there fellowships.

    Two or three years ago, there was a notice put out by the FDA that they were hiring. But when you clicked on the link to their website, all that showed up was a list of the different types of internships and fellowships they have. It wasn't even a list of their current fellowship openings.

    The FDA is to blame for their hiring woes. It's just easier for them to pass the buck and blame industry for paying better.

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  8. Willing to pay $90K plus but no relocation authorized?

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  9. Although dated interactions I have had with xFDAers suggest much of the problem is FDA/US Government Policies and procedures that create barriers to frustrate both applicants and those involved in hiring. I guess this may help explain the deeply ingrained bureaucratic mindset since only people to survive the maze follow or fit a series of check boxes. While industry can pay more inability to hire or keep qualified people is due more to excessive works loads, ever changing priorities and responsibilities with the deep political agendas (internal and from Congress/Execs) that makes working environment tough to bring others on-board when they have options elsewhere.

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    1. My understanding of federal jobs is that the HR drones are even worse than those in industry - think tuned-out DMV types - so you pretty much have to copy and paste the job description verbatim into your resume for them to match all the technical terms they don't understand, while someone who's a perfect fit gets overlooked. The extra points for being a veteran also skew hiring away from the best-fitting scientists. Ever notice how many politicians' kids join the National Guard, Coast Guard, etc? It isn't about patriotism; it's about getting in on the federal gravy train.

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    2. KT, good advice (the copy and paste thing), might be a way to get in the door.

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