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Senate OKs Crawford as FDA commissioner

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved Monday the nomination of Lester Crawford to be permanent commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, despite concerns over his handling of the agency as acting chief.
/ Source: Reuters

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved Monday the nomination of Lester Crawford to be permanent commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, despite concerns over his handling of the agency as acting chief.

Crawford, a food safety expert with a doctorate in pharmacology, has served as acting FDA commissioner since March 2004. He also did a previous stint as acting commissioner from February to November 2002.

The Senate voted to confirm Crawford by a 78-16 vote.

A variety of controversies had held up Crawford’s nomination since Bush nominated him for the post in February, including drug safety concerns, a stalled decision over easier access to emergency contraceptives and charges of an extramarital affair with a subordinate.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, who has been investigating the FDA, said problems at the agency were rooted in its culture. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, voted against Crawford, saying he was too steeped in the same system.

‘Muzzling of scientific dissent’
“During Doctor Crawford’s tenure, I have witnessed the suppression of the scientific process and the muzzling of scientific dissent,” Grassley said.

On Friday, three senators dropped their various objections, clearing the way for Monday’s vote.

Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Hillary Clinton of New York said the FDA would decide by Sept. 1 whether to approve Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s  bid to sell the Plan B ”morning-after” contraceptive without a prescription.

Murray and Clinton, both Democrats, had been protesting the FDA’s delayed ruling on Plan B, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse. The FDA had been due to give Barr an answer in January.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn also sought to delay the vote because the FDA had not acted to clarify condom labels.

A government investigation found no basis for charges, sent anonymously to the Senate, that Crawford had had an affair.