Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Frank Torti to be Acting FDA Director

Dr. Frank Torti, the FDA's science chief, is to become its acting FDA Commissioner. William Gimson III, chief operating officer at the CDC, will serve as acting director after Dr. Julie Gerberding leaves January 20.

President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team look like they are hoping to make swift break with the Bush administration. Deliberations over the FDA are difficult because of competing interests, but they could announce a permanent appointee to lead the FDA in the next three weeks, sources said.

During a confirmation hearing last week, the nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, former Sen. Tom Daschle, told a Senate panel, "I want to take ideology and politics as much as humanly possible out of the process and leave the scientists to do their job."

Dr. Torti, the FDA's present principal deputy commissioner, was named to the temporary slot heading the agency over the longtime director of the drug division, Janet Woodcock, who is under fire from Congress in relation to several drug-safety issues, including the importation of contaminated heparin from China.

Dr. Torti has been at the FDA since April, when he was brought in as chief scientist, a new position, from Wake Forest University, where he led its cancer center.

In a letter last month to the transition team, Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who has held 16 hearings on issues at the FDA, asked Mr. Obama not to name any current high-level official of the agency to a post there because he said the drug division has been too closely aligned with the pharmaceutical industry's agenda. The FDA didn't respond to requests for comment.

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

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