FDA faces fire from researchers saying it has not prioritized e-cigarette testing: report

FDA faces fire from researchers saying it has not prioritized e-cigarette testing: report
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Researchers are criticizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for what they see as not prioritizing testing for whether e-cigarettes can reduce smoking deaths while vaping products more visibly face scrutiny due to deaths linked to them. 

Despite the vaping deaths, some experts say they see e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Kurt Ribisl, chairman of health behavior at the University of North Carolina’s school of global public health told the Journal that the FDA could have gotten rid of some expensive and lengthy requirements for animal testing, product composition and stability studies, noting that this is done for some other drugs. 

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"It’s essential that we figure out whether e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking," Ribisl said. 

Matthew Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the newspaper that the administration "hasn’t done any of the things it does to fast-track other drugs."

“The FDA hasn’t approached this with a focus on the half-million people a year who die from smoking,”  Meyers added. 

The FDA told The Hill in a statement that reducing diseases and deaths related to tobacco are a "top priority" for the administration, and that it has funded work in this area.

"We need to better understand whether novel forms of nicotine delivery can meet the requirements to be marketed as drugs to help smokers quit combustible tobacco, such as nicotine replacement therapy, or potentially as less harmful tobacco products, such as modified risk tobacco products, for those adults who still seek to use nicotine," the statement said. "It’s critical we continue to build our broader knowledge base about the public health impacts of products like e-cigarettes that could ultimately be evaluated under either regulatory pathway."

"The FDA has supported and encouraged work in this area and will continue to do so by using all available mechanisms to spur research and development," it continued.

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The agency also noted that many research projects don't require interaction with the FDA.

"Researchers can and are studying what impact e-cigarettes may have on currently addicted adult smokers, and many of these projects may not require interaction with the FDA at this time," the administration said. "The FDA has also established a cross-agency group to assist academic researchers and industry who are designing e-cigarette studies. This includes studies looking at, among other things, how these products may impact the health of currently addicted adult smokers as well as their use of combustible cigarettes."

"The agency has also has funded a number of projects that are currently underway to answer many of these same questions,” the FDA added.

According to the newspaper, more than 480,000 Americans die annually due to causes linked to cigarettes. 

An illness linked to vaping has sickened more than 2,000 people across the U.S. and has resulted in nearly 50 deaths.