- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006


President Bush yesterday nominated Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the regulatory agency that the urology surgeon has led on an acting basis since September.

If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. von Eschenbach probably will step down as director of the National Cancer Institute, a government official said. The Philadelphia native has survived three cancer diagnoses.

Dr. von Eschenbach, 64, would become the third FDA commissioner since Mr. Bush took office in 2001. The last permanent commissioner, Lester Crawford, abruptly resigned in September.

In a letter Monday to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, wrote that in the past few years “there has been an undeniable absence of strong leadership at the FDA.”

The agency, which is part of HHS, oversees the regulation of medical devices and more than $1 trillion annually worth of food, drugs, cosmetics, animal feed and other products, which account for 25 cents of every dollar spent each year by Americans.

The Senate confirmation process will give lawmakers a chance to air a litany of complaints about the agency. Those include the FDA’s delaying of plans to allow over-the-counter sales of the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said the administration will have to address the Plan B issue “fair and square” before Dr. von Eschenbach could be confirmed, raising the possibility of a delay.

John Seffrin, the national chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, called Dr. von Eschenbach an extraordinary person who has seen both sides of cancer, as a doctor and survivor.

“You have a … mixture of talent, experience and sensitivity that make him, I think, uniquely qualified to be a regulator at an agency as important as the Food and Drug Administration,” Mr. Seffrin said.

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