Sen. Brown joins FDA sunscreen fight

Congressional pressure is mounting for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve stronger sunscreen ingredients that lawmakers say could prevent skin cancer and save lives.

Sen. Sheldon Brown (D-Ohio) announced Wednesday his support for the Sunscreen Innovation Act, which would require the FDA to speed up the approval process for sunscreen ingredients, some of which have been facing review for more than a decade.

“It is unconscionable that better sunscreen products, made in America, are not available to help our citizens avoid skin cancer,” Brown said in a statement. “The FDA’s review backlog of more than a decade is unacceptable and puts lives at risk. This bipartisan legislation would eliminate the red tape that hurts the health and well-being of Americans and limits economic opportunity for our local businesses.”

Skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 3.5 million new cases diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

But lawmakers believe advancements in sunscreen technology could help prevent many cases of skin cancer — if they ever make it to market.

Disappointed with what they see as the FDA's lethargic review process, Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) have been pushing the Sunscreen Innovation Act to force the FDA to make quicker decisions on applications for new sunscreen products.

The Sunscreen Innovation Act would require the FDA to make a decision on new sunscreen applications within 11 months and existing applications within 8 months, but would not change other aspects of the approval process, the lawmakers say.

During an event hosted by The Hill, Maloney on Tuesday accused the FDA of "dragging their feet," while Isakson accused the agency of a "lack of focus."

"The fact that something set for 12 years before the FDA when it could have saved lives, that's inexcusable," Isakson said.

Now, Brown is joining the fight, announcing Wednesday he will co-sponsor the bipartisan bill. He pointed out that many of the sunscreen ingredients that the FDA has yet to approve have been safely used in Europe for years.

"While sunscreen is used by consumers to protect themselves from harmful exposure to the sun," Brown said, "Americans do not have access to the most advanced sunscreen that Canadians and those in the EU do."