Confirmation of FDA Commissioner Unlikely
FDA's delay of a decision on Barr Laboratories' application for nonprescription sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B for girls and women ages 17 and older might have "sunk any chances" of confirming a permanent commissioner for the agency "in the near future," CQ Today reports. Plan B can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse (Schuler, CQ Today, 3/30).
Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) earlier this week met with acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach -- whom President Bush earlier this month nominated to permanently head the agency -- and said they still will place a hold on his confirmation until the agency makes a decision regarding nonprescription sales of Plan B (California Healthline, 3/29).
However, "senatorial intransigence might suit the [Bush] administration's immediate goals better than a nomination fight," CQ Today reports.
Von Eschenbach's confirmation hearings likely would highlight the issues surrounding Barr's application, and any decision on the drug could have "political ramifications for Republicans," according to CQ Today. If the agency approves nonprescription sales of Plan B, it is "sure to upset" some conservative members of the party, and denial of the application will expose the administration to allegations that politics is interfering with science, according to CQ Today.
Joe Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said, "This is the stuff of stalemate."
The date for von Eschenbach's Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing has not been set. He can remain acting FDA commissioner until the Senate reaches a decision on his confirmation or for 210 days if the nomination is withdrawn or rejected (CQ Today, 3/30).