Americans Can’t Buy the Top-Notch Sunscreen That Europeans Have Been Using for Years

The best sunburn protections are blocked by a federal backlog, but Congress is pushing legislation it says will clear the way.

National Journal
Sophie Novack
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Sophie Novack
April 7, 2014, 10:04 a.m.

Sun­screens that have been avail­able in Europe and oth­er for­eign mar­kets for years re­main banned from U.S. stores be­cause of a back­log in the fed­er­al bur­eau­cracy.

The in­gredi­ents that make the sun­screen su­per­i­or have been await­ing ap­prov­al — or any sort of de­cision — from the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion for at least 12 years. There are cur­rently eight such in­gredi­ents stuck in the sys­tem.

Without ac­cess to the in­gredi­ents, con­sumers may be blocked from buy­ing the sun­screens that provide the most ef­fect­ive pro­tec­tions against harm­ful rays.

Con­gress has a plan to break the 12-year back­log: The House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee on Monday is look­ing at le­gis­la­tion that would ex­ped­ite the FDA’s ap­prov­al pro­cess for sun­screen in­gredi­ents. Should the pan­el ap­prov­al the meas­ure, it would put the bill one step closer to pas­sage.

A com­pan­ion ver­sion of the House bill is pending with the Sen­ate’s Health Com­mit­tee.

The le­gis­la­tion aims to im­prove on the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s latest at­tempt to make it­self more nimble in keep­ing up with sun­block tech­no­logy: a 2002 pro­ced­ur­al change from the FDA that the agency hoped would speed up its ap­prov­al pro­cess.

But without a single in­gredi­ent be­ing ap­proved since then, ad­voc­ates say it’s time for an­oth­er try.

“FDA’s goal was to cre­ate a more stream­lined pro­cess; it just didn’t work out that way,” says a staff mem­ber of the Pub­lic Ac­cess to Sun­Screens Co­ali­tion. “Every­one — melan­oma re­search­ers, the com­munity, man­u­fac­tur­ers, pa­tients, even the FDA — every­one agrees the cur­rent situ­ation is not work­ing. When you com­bine that with the in­creas­ing rates of skin can­cer, it’s a ser­i­ous pub­lic-health con­cern.”

At stake is more than sun­burns: Skin can­cer is the most com­mon form of can­cer in the United States. more than 2 mil­lion cases are dia­gnosed each year, many of which could be pre­ven­ted by pro­tect­ing the skin from sun ex­pos­ure, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­ic­an Can­cer So­ci­ety.

Con­gres­sion­al ad­voc­ates hope they can im­prove the FDA’s ex­ist­ing pro­ced­ure without upend­ing the en­tire sys­tem.

Un­der cur­rent law, if an in­gredi­ent is on the mar­ket in an­oth­er coun­try for five years, it may go through a pro­cess to be de­term­ined eli­gible by the FDA. An ad­vis­ory com­mit­tee of ex­perts then weighs in on the safety and ef­fect­ive­ness of the product, and the agency makes the fi­nal de­term­in­a­tion as to wheth­er it is ap­proved.

The Sun­screen In­nov­a­tion Act makes two primary changes to this pro­cess. First, it would in­sti­tute an eight-month dead­line for the FDA to make a de­cision, re­pla­cing a cur­rent re­view pro­cess that lacks a man­dat­ory end date. Second, the bill would no longer re­quire the FDA to is­sue a reg­u­la­tion every time it wants to ap­prove an in­gredi­ent.

The FDA de­clined to com­ment on the bill, but a spokes­per­son said the agency has “pri­or­it­ized re­view­ing the safety and ef­fect­ive­ness of ad­di­tion­al sun­screen in­gredi­ents as quickly as pos­sible giv­en the agency’s re­sources.”

This frus­tra­tion has boiled over to Cap­it­ol Hill, with match­ing House and Sen­ate bills to ad­dress the prob­lem. The House ver­sion be­ing con­sidered Monday was in­tro­duced by Re­pub­lic­an Ed Whit­field and Demo­crat John Din­gell. The Sen­ate ver­sion came from Demo­crat Jack Reed and Re­pub­lic­an Johnny Isak­son.

With back­ing from both parties, ad­voc­ates are cau­tiously op­tim­ist­ic about the bills be­com­ing law, but they re­cog­nize that bi­par­tis­an sup­port is no guar­an­tee of pas­sage — par­tic­u­larly in the cur­rent grid­locked en­vir­on­ment.

“Try­ing to pre­dict what Con­gress is go­ing to do is kind of like hav­ing a per­fect March Mad­ness brack­et,” the sun­screens co­ali­tion staff mem­ber said. “But I will say there has been tre­mend­ous bi­par­tis­an, bicam­er­al sup­port.”

What We're Following See More »
CLOTURE FAILS
Government Shutdown Begins, as Senate Balks at Stopgap
17 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"A stopgap spending bill stalled in the Senate Friday night, leading to a government shutdown for the first time since 2013. The continuing resolution funding agencies expired at midnight, and lawmakers were unable to spell out any path forward to keep government open. The Senate on Friday night failed to reach cloture on a four-week spending bill the House had already approved."

Source:
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN SUSPICIOUS CHECKS FLAGGED
Mueller’s Team Scrutinizing Russian Embassy Transactions
1 days ago
THE LATEST
PRO-TRUMP SPENDING COULD VIOLATE FECA
FBI Investigating Potential Russian Donations to NRA
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.

Source:
DISCLOSURES MORE THAN DOUBLED
Mueller Investigation Leads to Hundreds of New FARA Filings
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Hundreds of new and supplemental FARA filings by U.S. lobbyists and public relations firms" have been submitted "since Special Counsel Mueller charged two Trump aides with failing to disclose their lobbying work on behalf of foreign countries. The number of first-time filings ... rose 50 percent to 102 between 2016 and 2017, an NBC News analysis found. The number of supplemental filings, which include details about campaign donations, meetings and phone calls more than doubled from 618 to 1,244 last year as lobbyists scrambled to avoid the same fate as some of Trump's associates and their business partners."

Source:
SPEAKING TO HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE
Hicks to Testify on Friday
1 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login