Lawmakers Ask HHS Inspector General To Investigate Resignation of Former FDA Commissioner
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee leaders on Thursday in a letter to HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson requested a "thorough review of the reasons surrounding" the resignation of former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford last week, Reuters reports (Richwine, Reuters, 9/29).
Crawford resigned two months after his confirmation as FDA commissioner in July. In an e-mail to FDA employees, Crawford wrote that "it is time, at the age of 67, to step aside." In a letter to President Bush on Sept. 23, Crawford said that his resignation was "effective immediately." Crawford, a veterinarian and a food safety expert, became FDA deputy commissioner in 2002 and later became acting agency commissioner.
Some individuals close to the situation reportedly have said that the resignation involved financial information Crawford did not fully disclose to the Senate before his confirmation (California Healthline, 9/28). However, Crawford on Wednesday said that he holds no stock in companies regulated by FDA.
In the letter to Levinson, Senate HELP Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), ranking member of the committee, wrote, "Specifically, we would appreciate if you would examine his financial reporting in accordance with the various ethics laws to determine whether he was in compliance and whether he was forthcoming in his attestations" to the White House counsel, HHS, the Office of Government Ethics and the committee.
The letter continued, "To the extent there was a breakdown in the disclosure process, it is of crucial importance that the committee be apprised of the details as soon as is practicable. ... The nation must have complete confidence that FDA is led by a fully vetted commissioner, free from conflicts of interest" (Pear, New York Times, 9/30).
In addition, Enzi and Kennedy requested information on "the dates in Dr. Crawford's tenure, if any, in relation to his financial holdings at those times that pose conflicts of interest with regard to specific decisions he made in his official capacities at FDA" (CongressDaily, 9/30).
In a separate letter, five House Democrats on Thursday asked Levinson to investigate the reasons for the Crawford resignation (AP/Chicago Tribune, 9/30).
The letter -- signed by Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) -- said, "Classifying this shift as a 'personnel change' only serves to continue the tradition of bad behavior perpetuated by an agency that was created specifically for the protection of the American people," adding, "We are very hopeful that your office will be able to shed some light on this matter, specifically as it pertains to the presence of conflicts of interest such as inappropriate and undisclosed pharmaceutical company stockholdings among agency officials."
HHS Office of Inspector General spokesperson Donald White said that the office has received the letters and will consider the requests from lawmakers (CQ HealthBeat, 9/29).