September 29, 2005

Lawmakers want probe of FDA chief’s departure

By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers requested on Thursday
an investigation into the sudden resignation of Food and Drug
Administration Commissioner Lester Crawford and whether it was
related to potential conflicts of interest from financial

Crawford stepped down from the FDA's top post on September
23, just two months after surviving a tough confirmation battle
in the Senate. Bush administration officials gave no
explanation for the unexpected exit.

Crawford, 67, told his staff it was time at his age to
"step aside."

Sens. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, and Edward Kennedy,
a Massachusetts Democrat, asked the Department of Health and
Human Services inspector general to "conduct a thorough review
of the reasons surrounding Dr. Crawford's resignation."

Enzi chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Committee, and Kennedy is the panel's highest-ranking Democrat.

In a letter to the inspector general, the senators asked
for an examination of whether Crawford's disclosure of
financial holdings was in compliance with ethics laws and
whether he was "forthcoming" with the administration officials
and the Senate committee.

They also requested a report on any dates during which
Crawford's holdings may have posed a conflict of interest, and
any decisions he made during those times.


"The nation must have complete confidence that FDA is led
by a fully vetted commissioner, free from conflicts of
interest," Enzi and Kennedy wrote.

New York Rep. Maurice Hinchey and four other House of
Representatives Democrats also asked the inspector general to
probe Crawford's departure.

Ethics rules require certain presidential appointees to
disclose information about their financial holdings, gifts and
outside income to avoid any conflicts with their duties.

Crawford could not immediately be reached for comment on
Thursday. He told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he
did not own shares of any companies regulated by the FDA. He
was quoted as saying he had been "careful to manage my
portfolio throughout my four stints at FDA."

His financial disclosure statement filed in February
shortly after his nomination lists holdings in companies such
as Bank of America and Citigroup, but no health-care firms.

Crawford served as the FDA's deputy commissioner and acting
commissioner for more than three years prior to his July
confirmation as permanent FDA chief.

He endured several controversies, including a series of
drug-safety concerns and repeated delays on Barr
Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s bid to sell a "morning-after"
contraceptive without a prescription.

Crawford also faced anonymous charges of an extramarital
affair with a female subordinate. An inspector general
investigation found no basis for the allegations.

In an e-mail to staff last week announcing his resignation,
Crawford said: "It is time, at the age of 67, to step aside."