Obama FDA picks raise some hackles

President Obama used his weekly address to appoint the regulatory duo we've been expecting for more than a week: Margaret "Peggy" Hamburg (photo) as PDA commissioner and Joshua Sharfstein (photo) as FDA deputy commissioner. Obama spent much of the address talking about food safety--and his desire to completely overhaul it. He created a "working group" to recommend changes in safety, which could culminate in an entirely new agency focused on food.

For those of us more interested in pharma, Obama had less to say--though agency inspectors are as behindhand at inspecting drug plants as they are food facilities, though the agency's own Science Board has said it can't ensure the safety of the drug supply. We're guessing that he's leaning hard on food safety--a problem most on Capitol Hill agree needs to be addressed--to ease Hamburg's way through the Senate confirmation process.

In introducing Sharfstein, Obama touted his achievements as a watchdog and a public-health advocate. "Dr. Sharfstein has been recognized as a national leader for his efforts to protect children from unsafe over-the-counter cough and cold medications," the president said during the address. "And he's designed an award-winning program to ensure that Americans with disabilities had access to prescription drugs."

The drug industry isn't so complimentary, and no wonder, because Sharfstein has been a frequent critic. The PhRMA trade group praised Hamburg's appointment over the weekend, but said not a word about Sharfstein. An op-ed in The Guardian--co-written by a corporately funded advocacy group--lambasted Obama's choice of Sharfstein, saying that he has a "long history of hostility" toward pharma and suggesting that he'll "waste time and energy collaborating with activists who wish to end free drug samples."

What do you think? Was Sharfstein a good pick for drug oversight? Let us know.

- read the New York Times story
- check out the Sharfstein piece in the Baltimore Sun
- get more from PharmaTimes
- find the Guardian op-ed