The Senate has confirmed Margaret Hamburg to lead the Food and Drug Administration, as the agency finds itself in a crisis on account of recent outbreaks of foodborne illness and drug recalls which prompted accusations of a lack of oversight.
According to the Associated Press, the 53-year-old bioterrorism expert and former assistant health secretary under President Clinton has said the development of a vaccine for the swine flu will be her priority, followed by an overhaul of the food safety system.
The latter will mean a shift from "chasing outbreaks after they have broken out" to preventing them from occurring in the first place.
When the FDA nominations were announced earlier this year, they faced a barrage of criticism from many quarters.
Among the most vocal critics of Hamburg’s nomination was the Catholic League whose president Bill Donohue has denounced her opposition to sex education that stresses abstinence over safe sex.
Meanwhile, 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 of 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.