MAY 01, 2006

Acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, MD, is giving up his second job. He is resigning from his position as director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a position he has held since 2002. Since being appointed to head the FDA in September 2005, Dr. von Eschenbach has faced criticism from lawmakers and consumer groups that say that both agencies need permanent, full-time leaders. He has turned daily operations over to a deputy chief and recused himself from matters that involved both agencies.

During a recent meeting of the Food and Drug Law Institute, Dr. von Eschenbach pledged to find ways to improve the FDA process and to shorten drug-review times. Critics, however, said that hastening FDA procedures may lead to rushed views of a new drug's side effects and approval of medicines that are dangerous. "Rapid does not mean reckless. We don't have to sacrifice any of the quality by improving the rate," he rebutted.

He also expanded on his recent remarks that medicines need to be not just safe and effective, but also appropriate. "We have to get the right thing to the appropriate person. That's a whole dimension I think needs to be mulled over and chewed on and understood in terms of what the implication is," he said.

Dr. von Eschenbach was appointed to head the FDA following the sudden resignation of Lester Crawford, DVM, PhD. In March 2006, President George W. Bush nominated him to permanently run the FDA. A Senate vote is needed to confirm the appointment.