While Dr. Joshua Sharfstein was the suspected front runner to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug lobby reportedly opposed the choice. Now President Obama has chosen Margaret (Peggy) A. Hamburg to head the agency with Sharfstein named as deputy commissioner.
The two have a tall mission of rebuilding the agency that regulates about a quarter of the food, drugs and chemicals Americans contact every day on a budget that hasn’t risen in 20 years.
Dr. Ray Woosley, president of a nonprofit that works to improve the drug approval process tells Bloomberg, “The “The FDA is a public health agency and to have two public health leaders at the helm is a clear signal of the right direction for the agency.”
Dr. Hamburg, 53, is a physician and the former New York City health commissioner where she designed a program that reduced the city’s tuberculosis rate by 46 percent. Another program under her leadership, raised childhood immunizations to record levels. She has researched AIDS at the National Institutes of Health and worked in federal government as an assistant secretary at Health and Human Services. She has double degrees from Harvard.
Her mother, Beatrix, was the first black woman to attend Vassar College. She was also the first to earn a medical degree at Yale University. Her father is also a physician who headed the Institute of Medicine.
In 2001, she joined the Nuclear Threat Initiative which focuses on reducing the public safety threat from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The organization was founded in 2001 with a grant from CNN founder, Ted Turner, and is co-chaired by former senator Sam Nunn.
She will face a confirmation hearing after being formally nominated.
Dr. Sharfstein, also a medical doctor and Baltimore’s health commissioner since 2005, made headlines in 2007 with his criticism of the use of over-the-counter cold medications for children, which eventually led to companies discouraging their use by infants and toddlers.
Dr. Sharfstein has also been critical of the lavish gifts drug makers are known to distribute to doctors. At Harvard Medical School in 1992, he even organized students to return textbooks that had been paid for by drugmaker ,Novartis.
Both of his parents are physicians. Upon graduating from Harvard Medical School he completed his residency in pediatrics and worked with U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman on putting tobacco under the regulation of the FDA.
Congress is now considering such a measure.
President Obama has promised a full review of the agency which has responsibility on the safety of products, from lipstick to peanut butter, and from heparin to heart stents.
Lawmakers such as Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs an FDA appropriations subcommittee, has proposed putting the food safety responsibilities under a different agency. Mr. Obama has already proposed increasing the food safety budget from $662 million committed by George Bush for 2009 to $1 billion. #