Senators To Block Crawford Nomination as FDA Head Over Condoms, Emergency Contraception
Three senators have said they will block a full Senate vote on acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford's nomination to head the agency because of FDA's delay in issuing a decision about whether emergency contraception can be made available without a prescription and because the agency has not required condom packages to include warnings saying that they do not provide complete protection against sexually transmitted diseases, the New York Times reports. A spokesperson for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has said that the senator will place a hold on Crawford's nomination over the condom warning issue, and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have said they will block a full Senate vote until FDA issues a decision on Barr Laboratories' application to allow the emergency contraceptive Plan B to be sold without a doctor's prescription (Harris, New York Times, 6/10).
The agency in May 2004 issued a "not approvable" letter in response to Barr's original application, which would have allowed Plan B to be sold to any woman without a doctor's prescription, and FDA in January delayed its decision on Barr's revised application, which would allow EC to be sold without a doctor's prescription to women ages 17 and older but be dispensed only with a doctor's prescription for girls ages 16 and younger. During a confirmation hearing in March, Crawford told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions that FDA would approve the application "within weeks" (California Healthline, 4/15).
Following an HHS Office of Inspector General report clearing Crawford of charges that he had an extramarital affair with a female subordinate who was given a senior job at the agency, a vote in the Senate health committee on Crawford's nomination is scheduled for Thursday, the Times reports. Senators cannot place a hold on the nomination to block a full Senate vote until the committee votes.
Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) said that he supports Crawford's nomination. "The FDA urgently needs a permanent commissioner to lead the agency through a challenging chapter in its history," Enzi said, adding that Crawford's experience as acting commissioner "will benefit both the agency and public safety" (New York Times, 6/10).