President Bush Picks Lester Crawford to Head FDA, Abortion Drug Still Hot

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 14, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

President Bush Picks Lester Crawford to Head FDA, Abortion Drug Still Hot Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 14, 2005

Washington, DC ( — President Bush has nominated Lester Crawford, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, as the new head of the agency that is embroiled in a controversy over the RU 486 abortion drug and the so-called morning after pills.

Crawford has been the acting director since March 2004 and served as deputy administrator of FDA from 2002 until he became acting commissioner after his predecessor, Mark McClellan, left to head up the Medicare program.

The nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate.

If approved, Crawford must deal with an intense national debate over the abortion drug and the sometimes abortifacient morning after pill.

Pro-life groups want the RU 486 mifepristone pill pulled form the market while its safety is examined and they don’t want the morning after drug to be approved for over the counter sales.

Last year the FDA strengthened its black box warning labels on the RU 486 drug, making them the most severe the agency issues. Abortion advocates disagreed with the need for stronger warnings and claimed the abortion pills were not responsible for the deaths of three women.

"Our investigation reveals that it was due to mifepristone," Dr. Crawford said in response.

Crawford indicated the agency was concerned that infections leading to a woman’s death could be brought on without the normal telltale indicators. Holly Patterson died in September 2003 after a sudden infection brought on by the abortion drug.

"We believe that physicians may not be as aware as they might be that these infections can occur without the usual signs," Crawford said.

Last month, the FDA delayed its decision on whether to allow sales of the so-called morning after pill over the counter. The federal agency was expected to reach a decision Friday but said in a statement that it needed more time to review the drug.

The FDA rejected a proposal by Barr Pharmaceuticals last year to allow the drug, which sometimes causes abortions, to be sold to anyone without a doctor’s visit.

Agency officials said Barr did not provide enough information on how the drug affects teenagers.

Barr submitted a new application asking that the drug, also known as Plan B, be sold without a prescription only to those above 16 years of age.

Prior to joining the FDA, Crawford as the was chairman of the Department of Physiology-Pharmacology at the University of Georgia and administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the Department of Agriculture.