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Despite 9 months of holdups by Congress, the Senate approved the nomination of Acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, MD, to permanently head the agency. He has served as interim head of the FDA since September 2005.
Republican Sens Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and David Vitter (La) had placed holds on the nomination. Retiring Majority Leader Bill Frist (R, Tenn), however, forced a procedural vote that allowed the Senate to vote on the nomination despite the holds. During President Bush's term, the FDA has been without a permanent commissioner for all but 18 months.
The next year could prove challenging for the agency. With the Democrats controlling Congress, many have criticized the FDA on its monitoring of the safety of drugs. Furthermore, the law that permits the agency to collect fees from companies to accelerate the new drug approval process expires in 2007. The Democrats will most likely use the reauthorization of the legislation as a means to push for changes at the agency.