Natural Foods Merchandiser

FDA commissioner nomination expected today

The senate is expected to begin hearings today to confirm Andrew von Eschenbach as the next commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He has been interim FDA commissioner since Sept. 23, 2005.

However, Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) have promised to block the nomination until the FDA sets a timeline for deciding whether to approve over-the-counter sales of Plan B contraceptive. According to The New York Times, the FDA said yesterday it would consider approving Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill. Discussions with Barr Laboratories, the manufacturer of the pill, could be complete within a few weeks, according to the Times report.

At the time von Eschenbach was appointed interim commissioner, leaders in the supplements industry expressed reservations. In November 2005, Loren Israelsen, executive director of the Utah Natural Product Alliance, said, "I have no vibe yet on Dr. von Eschenbach. He's truly an unknown quantity as far as our industry is concerned," adding, "Dr. von Eschenbach is a physician who comes from a research and science background. The rough and tumble world of dealing with regulatory politics is a very different thing." Steve Mister, president and chief executive of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, based in Washington, D.C, had expressed frustration with a string of temporary appointments to the FDA position. Neither Israelsen nor Mister were available for new comments as of press time.

The American Association for Health Freedom is urging anyone with reservations about von Eschenbach's nomination to contact their senators immediately.

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