WASHINGTONPresident Bush has nominated NCI director Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. von Eschenbach has served as acting FDA commissioner since the resignation of Lester M. Crawford, DVM, PhD, in September 2005. Mike Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, called his nomination an "inspired" choice. "His career has been defined by his vision for progress in research and passion for the care of patientstwo qualities which will serve the agency and the American public well," he said.
Plan B Controversy
If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. von Eschenbach will become the third FDA commissioner under President Bush. His confirmation immediately became embroiled in a political fight. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) announced that they would put a hold on Dr. von Eschenbach's nomination, a Senate procedure that would prevent his confirmation, "until the FDA issues a decision on Plan B, yes or no." Plan B is the controversial "morning after pill." An FDA advisory board and FDA medical reviewers have recommended approving the drug for over-the-counter sale, which social and religious conservatives oppose because they contend it could cause early abortions and encourage promiscuity.
Dr. von Eschenbach joined NCI in January 2002 after a distinguished career as a urologic surgeon and cancer advocate at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Since his appointment as acting FDA commissioner, the day-to-day management of NCI has been overseen by chief operating officer John Niederhuber, MD, an arrangement that will continue until Dr. von Eschenbach is confirmed as FDA commissioner.