After only 2 months as chief of the FDA, Lester Crawford, DVM, PhD, has resigned, stating that "it is time at the age of 67 to step aside." His resignation comes at a time marked by heavy disapproval of the agency and its decisions, including those related to drug safety and drug monitoring. The most recent bone of contention was Dr. Crawford's decision to delay Barr Laboratories' application to make emergency contraception available without a prescription, over the objections of staff scientists who said that the pill was safe.
The FDA also has come under fire for (1) its slow response to recognize the safety concerns of painkillers such as Merck's Vioxx, which was taken off the market in 2004 and is facing countless lawsuits from patients who claim that they were harmed by the drug; (2) the shutdown of a British supplier of the US flu vaccine for tainted shots; and (3) the regulation of heart defibrillators and other devices.
Andrew von Eschenbach, MD, has been named acting FDA commissioner. Before being confirmed as permanent FDA commissioner in July 2005, Dr. Crawford had served as acting or deputy FDA commissioner since February 2002.