The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses rulemaking as one of its primary tools to protect the public health and implement laws enacted by Congress and the president. Because of the many effects that these rules have on social welfare and the economy, the FDA and other executive agencies receive input from the executive branch, the public, and in some cases, the courts, during the process of rulemaking. In this article, we examine the life cycle of FDA regulations concerning medical products and review notable features of the rulemaking process. The current system grants substantial opportunities for diverse stakeholders to participate in and influence how rules are written and implemented. However, the duration, complexity, and adversarial qualities of the rulemaking process can hinder the FDA's ability to achieve its policy and public health goals. There is considerable variation in the level of transparency at different stages in the process, ranging from freely accessible public comments to undisclosed internal agency deliberations. In addition, significant medical product rules are associated with lengthy times to finalization, in some cases for unclear reasons. We conclude by identifying potential areas for reform on the basis of transparency and efficiency.

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