House Democrats Criticize Multiple Roles of Acting FDA Commissioner in Letter to HHS Secretary
Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt saying that acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach's position as director of the National Cancer Institute could create conflicts of interest, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 10/12).
President Bush named von Eschenbach acting FDA commissioner after former agency Commissioner Lester Crawford resigned last month. On Sept. 30, von Eschenbach said that he would take a temporary leave of absence as director of NCI to address conflict-of-interest concerns.
In a memo to FDA employees, he said that Leavitt has asked John Niederhuber, deputy director for translational and clinical sciences at NCI, to serve as chief operating officer at the agency (California Healthline, 10/3).
In Wednesday's letter, the lawmakers wrote, "Having the same person at the helm of the NCI and the FDA violates the independent safeguards built into this system," adding that the situation "opens the door to unacceptable conflicts of interest."
HHS officials did not respond to a request for comment, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 10/12).