has nominated 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
As head of the
FDA, Von Eschenbach would oversee approvals of all new
medications, including those to treat HIV. He also would
oversee the approvals of vaccines--such as those
in development to prevent infection by the sexually
transmitted human papillomavirus, which has been linked
to most forms of cervical cancer--as well as the
marketing applications for microbicide products aimed
at preventing HIV and STD infections.
Congressional Democrats may scuttle Von Eschenbach's
appointment, which must be approved by the U.S. Senate.
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty
Murray of Washington have placed a legislative hold on
a confirmation vote in the Senate because of the
FDA's lengthy delay in a decision on Barr
Laboratories' application for over-the-counter sales
of its emergency contraception Plan B, which can
prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after sexual
intercourse. Von Eschenbach, appearing before the
House agriculture appropriations subcommittee, last
month told lawmakers that the delay in addressing the
application is due to the more than 10,000 public comments
filed on the measure.
But Clinton and
Murray said that in 2005 they were tricked into removing
their hold on the nomination of Von Eschenbach's
predecessor, Lester Crawford. Health and Human
Services secretary Mike Leavitt pledged that a
decision on the application for Plan B would be
finalized by September 1, 2005, and Clinton and
Murray subsequently removed their hold on
Crawford's nomination because of Leavitt's guarantee.
Instead, the FDA in August announced it was again
delaying its decision.
Saying they were
"double-crossed" by Leavitt, the senators
again have placed a legislative hold on the FDA
appointment. "This time around they are not going to
get their nomination until a decision has been made,"
Murray told The New York Times. "You cross
somebody and lose their trust, it becomes very difficult
to do things the second time around." (The