Senators Raise Concerns Over Administration Vetting Process After Resignation of FDA Commissioner
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee leaders have raised concerns about the vetting process used by the Bush administration after the "abrupt and mysterious" resignation of Lester Crawford as FDA commissioner on Sept. 23, The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 10/4).
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. However, Crawford last week said that he holds no stock in companies regulated by FDA (California Healthline, 9/30).
According to committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and ranking member Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), reports that Crawford failed to fully disclose financial information could indicate problems with the vetting process used by the Bush administration to screen nominees for high-level positions such as FDA commissioner, an Enzi aide said. Enzi and Kennedy seek to "understand whether there was some sort of deficiency in the data supplied in the original, pre-confirmation review" released by the Bush administration that might indicate problems with the vetting process, the aide said, adding that Enzi might launch a committee investigation into the Crawford resignation.
Last week, Enzi and Kennedy called for HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson to investigate the issue (The Hill, 10/4).
The Crawford resignation and the appointment of NCI Director Andrew von Eschenbach as acting FDA commissioner might "prove to be a defining moment in American medicine," Robert Goldberg, director of the Center for Medical Progress and chair of the 21st Century FDA Task Force at the Manhattan Institute, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece.
According to Goldberg, "whether the FDA will be allowed to reform itself with better science remains an open question," as some agency officials and critics who consider von Eschenbach "the drug industry's hand puppet are undermining efforts to move FDA into the 21st century."
Critics -- who call supporters of "scientific approaches to identify the risks and benefits" of new medications "pawns of the pharmaceutical industry and the Bush administration" -- "feed the media misinformation about their agenda [and] undermine medical progress and the search for cures," Goldberg adds (Goldberg, Washington Times, 10/4).