Bush Administration Nominates von Eschenbach to head FDA
The Ides of March brought good news to US Food and Drug Administration (Rockville, MD, www.fda.gov) Acting Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. The White House announced his nomination to the job on a permanent basis. Von Eschenbach has been the acting head of FDA since former commissioner Lester Crawford resigned in September 2005. As acting head, von Eschenbach’s decision to keep his job as chief of the National Cancer Institute has raised criticism and conflict-of-interest concerns; if confirmed he will have to drop his other hat.
Although he has strong support from pharma and other industries regulated by FDA, von Eschenbach will face a tough confirmation process in the Senate. FDA’s delayed action on approving an OTC version of the morning-after pill Plan B once again is likely to dominate the discussion, along with safety concerns about drugs and medical devices.
White House staffers evidently interviewed a number of outside candidates, but had difficulty finding someone with equally strong medical and research credentials who is familiar with FDA regulatory issues and meets administration political criteria. Everyone agrees that FDA needs a permanent leader, but getting there will not be that easy.