Bush nominee for FDA commissioner bodes well for industry

April 2, 2006

The Bush administration’s nominee for FDA commissioner could be a boon to the imaging industry, but getting him confirmed by the U.S. Senate will be anything but easy.

The Bush administration's nominee for FDA commissioner could be a boon to the imaging industry, but getting him confirmed by the U.S. Senate will be anything but easy.

The problem is not with Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, who has served as acting commissioner of the agency for the past half year, while directing the National Cancer Institute. Bob Britain, vice president of medical products at NEMA's medical diagnostic imaging and therapy systems division, describes von Eschenbach as someone who knows a great deal about imaging and imaging equipment.

"He knows what imaging can do, and he knows about the new technologies coming down the pike," Britain said. "I've got to believe that having a guy like that at the FDA can't hurt us."

But any nominee put forward in the near term by the Bush administration, regardless of professional qualifications, is assured of a fight. Democrats are angry over the status of Plan B, the "day after" contraceptive. In 2004, a Federal advisory panel voted overwhelmingly to change the status of the prescription drug to allow over-the-counter sale. The agency has not yet approved the change, however, amid allegations that it is ignoring science in favor of politics.

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have said publicly they will try to block the nomination of von Eschenbach, as long as the Plan B situation continues. The political fighting comes as no surprise to veteran watchers of the Washington political scene.

"That's the problem with Capitol Hill," Britain said. "That's the way they do business."

On the upside, von Eschenbach is already serving in the role for which he has been nominated. Although his job status as acting FDA commissioner limits his authority somewhat, the industry may still benefit in the weeks or months ahead from his expertise in medical imaging.