Bills would press FDA on sunscreen

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Legislation approved this week by a key House panel would direct the government to either approve or deny long-pending applications for sunscreen ingredients that are in wide use around the world but banned in the United States.

The fiscal 2015 Agriculture-rural development-FDA appropriations bill cruised to passage Thursday in the Appropriations Committee and is headed for a vote on the House floor.

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The bill was the subject of much debate in recent days over its provisions rolling back various nutrition standards and restrictions imposed under first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against obesity.

Getting less attention is language attached to the bill that would require the Food and Drug Administration to complete the sunscreen reviews, some of which have been pending for more than a decade, by year’s end.

"The committee directs FDA to complete its review by December 2014 of the remaining safety and effectiveness submissions already submitted for sunscreen active ingredients,” it says.

There are currently eight applications pending for sunscreen ingredients that lawmakers and advocates say could protect public health among Americans. Skin cancer, diagnosed in 3.5 million people each year in the United States, is now the nation’s most common form of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The Public Access to SunScreens (PASS) Coalition, representing the sunscreen ingredients companies and public health groups, lauded the language. The coalition is also pressing for passage of legislation now under consideration in both chambers of Congress. 

The Sunscreen Innovation Act, sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), is designed to force the FDA to pick up the pace on application decisions.

The bill 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.

Either piece of legislation would improve the process, the coalition said.

“This would allow the American public to gain access to the latest safe, effective and innovative sunscreen products to protect against the sun’s most harmful rays,” the group said in a statement cheering passage of the spending bill.