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FDA Commissioner Quits
 
 
  A WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE NEWS ROUNDUP
September 23, 2005 4:46 p.m.
 
Lester Crawford, the embattled commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, resigned Friday, saying in a memo to his staff that at age 67 it was time to step aside. [Lester Crawford]
 
His resignation comes just two months after the Senate, in a long-delayed move, elevated the longtime agency deputy to the job of commissioner. He had previously served as acting FDA chief.
 
The agency has come under criticism for its handling of the Vioxx controversy; the popular painkiller was pulled from the market last year due to safety concerns. His resignation also comes as political controversy has intensified around the FDA's decision to delay a final ruling on the so-called Plan B emergency contraceptive.
 
Mr. Crawford announced last month that the agency would seek public input before making a final decision about Plan B, which is marketed by Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. It was the latest twist for an application that was originally filed in March 2002.
 
Then, several weeks ago, Susan Wood, the agency's assistant commissioner for women's health, said she was stepping down from her position. She cited the FDA's deferral in deciding whether the Plan B drug, also known as the "morning-after pill," should be sold without a prescription. Her departure ramped up the political tension surrounding Plan B, as House and Senate Democrats immediately seized upon the issue.
 
Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt accepted Mr. Crawford's resignation "with sadness," said HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson. "We thank him for his service and wish him well." Asked if he was forced to resign, Ms. Pearson declined further comment, calling it a personnel issue.
 
Critics welcomed Mr. Crawford's departure.
 
"Lester Crawford's leadership at FDA since 2002 has been both tepid and passive," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.). She called his resignation "a move toward reforming FDA."
 
Mr. Crawford, who had worked at the agency on four separate occasions over 30 years, cited among his accomplishments new steps to improve drug safety, efforts to speed drug development and the bringing of more funding to the cash-strapped agency through manufacturer-paid fees.
 
"I also must thank the extraordinary people of FDA for the honor of having served with them," Mr. Crawford wrote in the memo to his staff Friday. "They have made public service a joy and a pleasure as we worked together to accomplish great things for public health."
 
Officials did not immediately name an acting director of FDA or a new candidate for the top post.
 
 
 
 
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