December 19, 2005

Investigators subpoena ex-FDA chief’s records

By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Department of Health and Human
Services' Office of Inspector General has sent subpoenas to
three financial institutions as part of an investigation of
former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester
Crawford, a source familiar with the probe said on Monday.

The inspector general's office is investigating Crawford's
abrupt departure from the FDA in September.

"Subpoenas were issued to three financial institutions in
the investigation of Lester Crawford," the source said,
speaking on condition of anonymity and without identifying the
recipients of the subpoenas.

Judy Holtz, a spokeswoman for the inspector general,
confirmed the subpoenas had been sent but declined to comment

An attorney for Crawford, Barbara Van Gelder, had no
comment. "We won't comment on any ongoing investigations," she

Crawford resigned as FDA commissioner just two months after
surviving a tough Senate confirmation fight. He gave no
explanation, other than saying it was time to step aside at age

Lawmakers requested an inspector general probe of
Crawford's sudden exit and whether it was related to his
financial holdings and disclosures.

Crawford served as the FDA's deputy commissioner and acting
commissioner for more than three years prior to his July 2005
confirmation as permanent FDA chief.

Financial disclosure forms filed in June 2005 show that as
late as 2004, Crawford or his wife owned stock in companies
with products regulated by the FDA.

The companies included hamburger chain Wendy's
International Inc.; food distributor Sysco Corp.; food and
beverage maker PepsiCo; Kimberly-Clark Corp., which makes
medical devices, and Embrex Inc., an agriculture biotechnology

Shares in those companies were sold at various times during
2004, according to the forms.

Crawford endured several controversies during his tenure,
including a series of drug-safety concerns and repeated delays
on Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s bid to sell the Plan B
"morning-after" contraceptive without a prescription.

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