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Comings And Goings

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Lester Crawford

Just over 2 months after the Senate approved his appointment as US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, Lester Crawford, PhD, suddenly tendered his resignation. Crawford had served as acting commissioner of the FDA for the past 3 years. Andrew von Eschenbach, head of the National Cancer Institute, has been named as his temporary replacement.

Crawford leaves the FDA during a period of public scrutiny. Critics have accused the FDA of not adequately guarding patient safety from medicines such as Vioxx and a variety of antidepressants, as well as from malfunctioning heart devices. Additional controversy surrounded FDA's indecision on whether to approve nonprescription sales of Plan B, an emergency contraceptive pill. In fact, the Senate had delayed the vote on Crawford's appointment for 5 months until US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, MD, set a deadline for a decision on Plan B.

During his tenure as FDA commissioner, Crawford's advocates lauded his increased efforts to monitor drug safety and to inform patients and doctors about the risks of drugs, as well as increased scrutiny of the scope and nature of drug advertising. His detractors tended to associate him with recent criticisms of the FDA for its close ties to the pharmaceutical industry. The reasons for Crawford's resignation have not been disclosed.

Prior to serving as FDA acting commissioner, Crawford was deputy commissioner of the FDA, chair of the Department of Physiology-Pharmacology at the University of Georgia, and administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. From 1997 to 2002, he served as director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Georgetown University. In addition, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and has been an advisor …

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