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Obama picks Hamburg, Sharfstein for FDA

March 11, 2009

Hamburg, Sharfstein Reported to be Obama Picks
for FDA Commissioner, Chief Deputy:
Statement by Consumers Union

WASHINGTON, DC — According to news reports, President Obama plans to nominate Dr. Margaret Hamburg to serve as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Reports say that Dr. Joshua Sharfstein will become Dr. Hamburg’s chief deputy.
“There are few jobs in the federal government that are as tough or important as FDA commissioner,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. “Dr. Hamburg’s nomination would mean that FDA would have the leadership it needs at a time when it faces huge challenges. Chief among the challenges facing FDA is food safety. The FDA has been understaffed and underfunded for too long, and has not been able to do its job of policing the marketplace to keep it safe. Dr. Hamburg would first have to help FDA get the budget and authority it needs so it can visit food processors every year, instead of once every ten years, and can inspect their records and impose meaningful penalties on violators.”
Bill Vaughan, a Consumers Union health analyst, added, “We want to work with Dr. Hamburg to reform the way FDA approves medicines. Between contaminated imports and the use of dishonest research results, the American medicine cabinet has become a little shop of horrors. In recent years, the agency has been too slow to protect consumers and too willing to give industries a pass on safety.”
“Dr. Sharfstein is a great choice to help refocus the agency on its primary mission – to protect public health and safety. His years as a health policy advisor for Congressman Waxman coupled with his management experience as Baltimore’s health commissioner are just what the doctor ordered for FDA,” said Ellen Bloom, federal policy director for Consumers Union.
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