FDA Mulls More Resources for Little-Monitored Cosmetics Industry

(Bloomberg) -- America’s quest for the Fountain of Youth never dries up, and the ever-more-advanced elixirs and makeup hitting shelves could use some more monitoring, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

“I’ve looked within our own budget, and we’ll probably be channeling some more of our own resources internally into the cosmetics program,” Gottlieb said in an interview Monday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “It’s a small program in FDA, and the industry is growing very, very large, and many more of the cosmetics have active ingredients that have drug-like qualities associated with them. So there’s more sophistication in cosmetics; there’s also potentially more risk.”

Even in today’s regulation-averse climate, the rapid growth of the cosmetic industry and the often-mysterious nature of ingredients have prompted calls for more scrutiny. Senators Orrin Hatch, Susan Collins and Dianne Feinstein have introduced federal bills that would expand regulation of the category, while more than a dozen states have rules requiring ingredient disclosure or prohibiting certain substances, according to health and environmental coalition Safer States.

FDA Mulls More Resources for Little-Monitored Cosmetics Industry

U.S. sales of beauty and personal-care products grew more than 16 percent to $86 billion in the five years through 2017, according to Euromonitor. Responsible for their oversight at the FDA are about 25 workers, along with 30 who monitor color additives in cosmetics and other products. The FDA defines cosmetics as “products intended to cleanse or beautify,” including items like shampoo, skin creams and deodorants. Sunscreen, acne ointment and similar products meant to “treat or prevent disease” are regulated as drugs, though there is some overlap.

As personal-care products get more complex, Gottlieb said the FDA has previously discussed moving the cosmetics program to the agency’s drug division, where it could have more resources. “The proximity to the drug program would have certain synergies,” he said.

Depending upon what happens in Congress, a move like that could still be still be on the table, Gottlieb said.

“Making sure that it’s on the right long-term footing is important to me,” he said of the cosmetics program. “As the industry gets more complex and as the products themselves become more complex, it does create the potential for more risk and so we want to be vigilant here.”

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