Crawford resigns as FDA chief

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Just two months after being confirmed by the Senate to head the Food and Drug Administration, Demopolis native Dr. Lester Crawford resigned Friday.

According to the Associated Press, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt accepted Crawford’s resignation “with sadness,” HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson said.

“We thank him for his service and wish him well,” she said.

Email newsletter signup

Asked if he was forced to resign, Pearson declined to comment further, calling it a personnel issue.

Crawford was named acting commissioner of the FDA in February after a stint as deputy commissioner.

The senate confirmed him as the FDA’s Commissioner in July.

On Friday, Crawford stepped down as the nation’s highest-ranking scientist.

According to the AP, Crawford’s gave no specific reason for his departure. “It is time at the age of 67, to step aside,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

President George Bush named Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, the director of the National Cancer Institute, the acting replacement.

As commissioner of the FDA, Crawford was responsible for the safety and regulation of drugs, most foods, biological products, medical devices, animal feed and drugs, cosmetics and radiation-emitting equipment.

Crawford’s expertise in bioterrorism made him a natural selection after the events of Sept. 11, according to published reports.

In fact, Crawford was previously named the acting commissioner for nine months in 2002, before begin tabbed as deputy commissioner.

“In this industry, we’re under attack all the time,” he said in 2003. “We have to be very careful with the products we regulate, but now we’ve changed our focus.”

Though critics celebrated his departure, one consumer group told the AP Crawford’s expertise will be missed.

“The agency has had so much turnover in the top spot, and turmoil throughout, that it could have benefited from a period of steady leadership,” said Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

According to the AP, Crawford, who had worked at FDA on four separate occasions over the last 30 years, on Friday cited among his accomplishments new steps to improve drug safety, efforts to speed drug development, and bringing more funding to the cash-strapped agency through manufacturer-paid fees.