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FDA nominations fuel criticism on many fronts

March 31, 2009 by  

FDA nominations fuel criticism on many frontsPresident Obama’s nominations for the commissioner and deputy chief of the Food and Drug Administration are pitting different groups against one another.

A barrage of criticism for Obama’s nomination of Margaret Hamburg as head of the FDA came from many conservative quarters, including the Catholic League whose president Bill Donohue has denounced Hamburg’s opposition to sex education that stresses abstinence over safe sex.

Meanwhile, while Hamburg’s nomination was warmly received by the pharmaceutical industry, the nomination of Joshua Sharfstein as deputy chief of the FDA has invoked bad memories among food, pharmaceutical and medical device groups.

Sharfstein worked under Representative Henry Waxman (California) who has been known to be tough on drug companies, including cracking down on medication use for illnesses not approved by the FDA and criticizing pharmaceutical companies for gifts handed out to physicians.

"[In announcing this nomination] the president decided that absolute drug safety should come first, even at the cost of the drugs’ availability to sick patients," according to Jeff Stier, an associate director of the American Council on Science and Health, writing for Forbes.com.

"That doesn’t bode well for our chances of getting the new medications needed to keep pace with our enviable improvements in quality of life and life expectancy," he added.

Both nominations are still pending Congressional approval.
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