Lester Crawford was confirmed yesterday as the new Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, having already served for more than a year in the post.
The US Senate voted 78-16 in favour of the nomination. Dr Crawford previously served as deputy FDA Commissioner and has stepped in to guide the agency on more than one occasion, having fulfilled that role from February to November 2002.
The confirmation brings to an end several months of waiting for Crawford, whose nomination was placed on hold as Senators debated a number of issues, including the FDA's recent record on monitoring drug safety - a debate brought to a head by the withdrawal of Merck & Co's painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib) - and the politically-sensitive issue of expanding access to emergency contraception.
Crawford was nominated as the new FDA chief back in February but in April Senators Patty Murray and Hillary Clinton said they would block the nomination until a decision is made on the approval status of Barr Laboratories' Plan B (levonorgestrel) over-the-counter emergency contraceptive
Representatives of the biopharmaceutical industry welcomed the news, with Biotechnology Industry Organisation president James Geenwood saying that Crawford "ably led the agency through a difficult period over the last year, and we welcome his confirmation as Commissioner."
But some Senators remain unconvinced. Murray issued a statement after the confirmation saying she "has been continually concerned during Dr Crawford's tenure that FDA hasn't shown the independence and adherence to science necessary to inspire public confidence."