US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Lester Crawford, on Friday announced his resignation. No details were given but the news follows a harried time at the agency, with harsh criticism over the regulator’s scrutiny of drug safety, its bias towards the pharmaceutical industry and – most recently - its failure to progress the approval of an over the counter version of the emergency contraceptive, Plan B.

Dr Crawford was named Acting Commissioner in the wake of Mark McClellan’s move to head up the agency for Medicare and Medicaid last year, and was confirmed to the role just two months ago [[20/07/05c]] [[15/03/04a]]. Prior to this, he held the post of Deputy Commissioner for a three year-period but his nomination to Commissioner was met with mixed response: some called it an “outstanding choice,” but controversies over drug safety – following the withdrawal of Merck & Co’s Vioxx in 2004 [[01/1/04a]] and the issue of suicidality amongst adolescents given antidepressants [[06/07/04a]] – as well as concerns over political influence into the FDA’s judgement over OTC Plan B [[14/05/04c]], [[06/09/05d]] have all clouded his tenure.

President George Bush has revealed that he plans to put Dr Andrew von Eschenbach into the role of Acting FDA Commissioner. Dr von Eschenbach is head of the National Cancer Institute and his appointment has met with a warm response, with observers hoping for a renewed focus on science and drug safety. Senator Charles Grassley commented: “"In recent years, the FDA has demonstrated a too cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and an attitude of shielding rather than disclosing information. The opportunity to name a new commissioner is a chance to take the agency in a necessary new direction.”

It is understood that Dr von Eschenbach will keep his role leading the NCI whilst also working as Acting Commissioner.