Lawyer Says Former FDA Commissioner ‘Retired’
A lawyer for former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford on Tuesday said that he has not been notified of any new investigation into Crawford's departure from the agency and that Crawford "retired" but did not resign, the Washington Post reports (Kaufman, Washington Post, 10/26).
Crawford left FDA in September, two months after his Senate confirmation. Several lawmakers had requested an investigation into the reasons for Crawford's departure, such as whether he followed ethics laws that required him to report his financial assets and income to the federal government. Some reports indicated that an unintentional failure to disclose financial holdings led Crawford to leave. Crawford has denied the allegation.
HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson this week confirmed that his office has launched an investigation into Crawford's departure (California Healthline, 10/25).
Crawford or his wife held shares in several companies whose business is regulated by FDA as late as 2004, when Crawford was FDA's acting commissioner, according to financial disclosure forms obtained by the Wall Street Journal. According to the Journal, Crawford began work at FDA in 2002 with stock in many companies, including Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. He told ethics officials that in 2002 he sold those stocks, along with stock he held in Kimberly-Clark, which makes medical devices; PepsiCo; and Sysco.
Crawford reported the sale in 2002 of his stock in Teleflex, which also makes medical devices, though "later forms show that he or his wife continued to own some shares," the Journal reports. In 2004, an ethics officer wrote that he had "recommended selling Teleflex also," and the sale was made in October 2004. The Journal reports that it is "unclear whether the ethics officials viewed any of [Crawford's] holdings as a conflict of interest."
Crawford declined to comment on the matter to the Journal (Lueck/Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 10/26).
In an interview with Forbes.com last month, Crawford said his decision to step down from the agency is partly because of controversy surrounding his ruling on nonprescription sales of the emergency contraception Plan B, the Post reports. Crawford in late August said that FDA could not rule on nonprescription EC, a statement for which he was "sharply criticized."
In the Forbes.com interview, Crawford said, "I didn't think it was possible to be very effective anymore."
The Government Accountability Office has said a report on FDA's handling of Plan B will be released soon. Wednesday is the last day for comments on the report. According to the Post, several footnotes to the report say the agency was unsuccessful in interviewing Crawford about the decision, but Crawford, through his lawyer, said he never declined to cooperate with GAO investigators.
Some congressional aides who read a draft of the report said "it reported that top FDA officials played an unusually active role in the decision," the Post reports.
Crawford also indicated in the Forbes.com interview that his departure was related to the prospect of more controversy over mifepristone, a medication used to induce abortion that FDA approved in 2000. Various groups have asked FDA to remove the drug from the market (Washington Post, 10/26).