Crawford Confirmed As FDA CommissionerCrawford Confirmed As FDA Commissioner
July 19, 2005
WASHINGTON--Following months of hesitation by lawmakers from both parties, the Senate voted 78 to 16 to confirm Lester Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D., as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a move welcomed by the greater dietary supplement industry. Crawford had been acting commissioner since March 2004 and was nominated in February 2005 by President Bush, but voting had been placed on hold numerous times by certain lawmakers from both parties. Democrats Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) stalled voting in an effort to force FDA to decide on availability of Plan B birth control; while Republicans Tom Coburn (Okla.) and David Ritter (La.) separately delayed the vote, attempting to boost enforcement of required condom labeling and to initiate action on expanded importation of cheap drugs, respectively.
While pockets of opposition in the Senate objected to Crawford's handling of the agency as acting commissioner, as well as to gossip reports of an extra-marital affair, others, including the dietary supplement industry, applauded his confirmation. Crawford has openly endorsed the agencys authority to regulate dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).
This industry continues to ask for full implementation and active enforcement of DSHEA and its implementing regulations, said Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). We are more likely to see progress now.
In a statement, Steven Mister, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), echoed praise for the confirmation. By using the authority provided by DSHEA, Dr. Crawford has sent a strong message to all supplement companies that they must comply with the law or face the consequences, he said. Further, the dietary supplement industry has been impressed by Dr. Crawfords openness in dealing with industry, thereby proving that regulatory success is best achieved by forming partnerships with key stakeholders, including government, regulatory agencies, industry and others.
Not as approving is Republican Charles Grassley (Iowa), who contends FDAs recent problems--mainly drug safety--are rooted in its culture, a system in which Crawford is too steeped. During Doctor Crawfords tenure, I have witnessed the suppression of the scientific process and the muzzling of scientific dissent, Grassley said. The systematic problems at FDA demand visionary leadership; Dr. Crawford has not shown me he is the leader to fix the FDA.
In contrast to Grassley, Democrat Ted Kennedy (Mass.) assured Crawford is well qualified to be FDA commissioner. Under Dr. Crawford's leadership at FDA, we have seen stepped up efforts to monitor drug safety and to inform patients and doctors about the risks of drugs. We have recently seen increased scrutiny of drug advertising, he said. Clearly more must be done, and with a commissioner in place, we can work more effectively on the key issues facing the agency, from how FDA monitors drug safety, to ways to address flu vaccine shortages, to how it handles conflicts of interest on its advisory committees, and how it has acted on Plan B."
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