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BUSH NOMINATES VON ESCHENBACH FOR TOP FDA JOB

March 17, 2006
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Senate Democrats are threatening to hold up the nomination of Andrew von Eschenbach to be the permanent head of the FDA over delays in the agency's decision on whether to allow the controversial Plan B contraceptive to be sold without a prescription.

President Bush announced the nomination recently, following weeks of speculation that von Eschenbach was the administration's choice to run the FDA. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are supporting the move. But some Senate Democrats are planning to place a hold on the nomination until the FDA makes a decision on Plan B.

For example, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, seems poised to oppose the nomination pending a Plan B decision. "I expect the [Bush] administration will have to address the Plan B issue fair and square before he can be confirmed," Kennedy said. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) also is planning to place a hold on the nomination.

However, the nominee does have strong allies, including Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the HELP committee, who has jurisdiction over the nomination. Enzi said that he is "pleased" with the nomination. Referring to von Eschenbach, Enzi noted the agency "needs a leader with the vision to cope with the many advances in genetics, pharmacology and related fields." The HELP committee has primary jurisdiction over the nomination.

Critics of the FDA, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) are also supporting von Eschenbach. "I am pleased to see that the [Bush] administration has appointed a competent, permanent head of FDA instead of a temp," said Mikulski. "Today's announcement is a move towards reforming FDA as the agency recovers from several years of weak leadership."

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