Obama Administration Will Get Fresh Start at FDA

Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, the FDA Commissioner has announced that he will resign on Inauguration Day. Many other top FDA officials have either already left the federal agency or plan to do so as President-elect Obama assumes office on January 20, 2009. The resignations are no doubt a consequence of the harsh criticism that the agency has faced during the two terms of the Bush Administration. Critics both within and outside of government have sharply rebuked the Bush policies of politicizing the FDA and its heavy-handed role in scientific research and policy. The criticisms have ranged from food supply safety to protecting pharmaceutical manufacturers whose drugs have been shown to be unsafe or ineffective. Just this year, the heparin contamination, ground beef recalls, and pharmaceutical marketing programs have left the FDA in disarray.
The resignations give the incoming Obama administration an opportunity to instill confidence in consmers who have been awash in stories of drug companies influencing scientific research. This “pay for play” culture may be an early target of the new administration seeking to set a fresh course for the FDA. The New York Times is reporting that Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a pediatrician and Baltimore health commissioner, is a leading candidate for the FDA post. Sharfstein made headlines earlier this year when he called for a ban on certain pediatric cough and cold medicines.
A fresh start would be good for consumers who must be able to trust the FDA when it comes to the integrity of pharmaceuticals and food stuffs. A new course that doesn’t protect big pharma or the large corporations at the expense of the consumer would be a refreshing change indeed.