Sunday, April 30, 2006

Scandal now reaches the FDA

It just goes on and on. There are so many Republican scandals going on in parallel it is hard to keep track of them. Since this is a public health blog, let's just do the latest, involving the former head of the US Food and Drug Administration Lester Crawford. He resigned in September, just three months after being confirmed by the Republican Senate. Reason? It was time for someone else to lead the agency. Three months. That's time. He is now (what else?) a lobbyist in Washington.

Commissioner Crawford, you may remember was involved in nixing over the counter (OTC) sales of Plan B, the emergency contraceptive otherwise known as the "morning after" pill (see here and here). Despite recommendations from FDA and independent scientists that the drug was appropriate for ale OTC, the FDA declined to approve it. Virtually everyone involved knew this was a political pay-off to Bush's right wing conservative base. So the FDA is being sued by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). As part of this suit, the CRR's lawyers have been taking depositions (questioning under oath) of FDA officials. On Thursday it was to be Crawford's turn.
[But on] Wednesday Ms. [Barbara] Van Gelder, who is his personal lawyer, asked for a delay, saying she would instruct him to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights. Dr. Crawford previously declined to answer questions from the Government Accountability Office about Plan B.

Ms. Van Gelder told Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Thursday that Dr. Crawford had been represented by Justice Department lawyers in the reproductive rights center's suit.

According to the transcript, she said that Dr. Crawford was under criminal investigation and that the issue of his financial disclosures "is within the grand jury." (New York Times via Atrios)
Whoa. What's this all about? It seems financial disclosure forms showed that in 2004, when he was deputy FDA Commissioner and then Acting Commissioner, either Crawford or his wife sold shares in companies also regulated by the FDA (not that Crawford would ever let outside considerations affect his judgment).

Criminal investigation. I guess this is a bit of a fly in the ointment of Crawford's cushy retirement life as a Washington lobbyist. I wonder if he has a Plan B?