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Despite 9 months of holdups by Congress, the Senateapproved the nomination of Acting FDA Commissioner Andrewvon Eschenbach, MD, to permanently head the agency. He hasserved as interim head of the FDA since September 2005.

Republican Sens Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and DavidVitter (La) had placed holds on the nomination. RetiringMajority Leader Bill Frist (R, Tenn), however, forced a proceduralvote that allowed the Senate to vote on the nominationdespite the holds. During President Bush's term, the FDA hasbeen without a permanent commissioner for all but 18months.

The next year could prove challenging for the agency. Withthe Democrats controlling Congress, many have criticized theFDA on its monitoring of the safety of drugs. Furthermore, thelaw that permits the agency to collect fees from companies toaccelerate the new drug approval process expires in 2007. TheDemocrats will most likely use the reauthorization of the legislationas a means to push for changes at the agency.

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