The nomination had been opposed by Sen. Grassley, who appears convinced that Dr. von Eschenbach is impeding Congressional oversight of FDA’s activities relating to FDA approval of Sanofi-Aventis’ (SNY) antibiotic Ketek, which has been the subject of substantial controversy since its approval in 2004.
The vote approving Dr. von Eschenbach was 80 to 11, with nearly all democrats and most republicans lining up in support.
It’s safe to say that no American would favor an executive agency running amok without sufficient Congressional oversight and checks of power. Certainly no U.S. Senator would favor this scenario. Sen. Grassley’s portrait of the von Eschenbach-led FDA suggests that FDA has been running amok of late, concealing secrets of national interest from Congressional oversight. Apparently, few of his colleagues agree.
The fact is FDA operates under rigorous oversight from the likes of Senator Grassley of the Finance Committee. This oversight has become increasingly onerous and invasive and has almost certainly distracted FDA’s leadership from its primary mission (see this September post, for example). The U.S. Congress has an obligation to check the power of FDA, but it should leave the job of reviewing experimental therapeutics to the dedicated scientists at FDA. Let’s hope that the confirmation of Dr. von Eschenbach is a recognition by the Senate of this distinction.