FDA Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein is reportedly leaving the agency and taking the top public-health job for the state of Maryland, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley intends to make the official announcement of the new head of Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Wednesday, the Baltimore Sun notes, citing a spokesman for the governor. However, Sharfstein has declined to comment on the report.
When Sharfstein's name was announced as Obama's choice for deputy commissioner, industry insiders were reportedly nervous. He once served as an investigator for Henry Waxman, serving as the go-to guy on many public health issues, including off-label drug marketing and pharma gifts to physicians. And as Baltimore Health Commissioner, he pressed the FDA to re-evaluate the safety of cough and cold meds for kids.
Sharfstein's planned departure was first reported by CQ HealthBeat, which reminds readers that Sharfstein led the Obama transition team that remolded the FDA. The agency had drawn criticism during the George W. Bush administration for being too close to industry, CQ adds. Indeed, the Journal notes that since his arrival in late March 2009, when he was briefly acting commissioner, Sharfstein has shaken up several divisions of the agency, notably drugs and medical devices, pushing for stronger safety standards and better compliance.
Whoever is named Maryland's health secretary will oversee a $9 billion budget which includes the Medicaid program, the Baltimore Sun reports. The new secretary will work to implement the Obama healthcare overhaul, an issue that O'Malley is prioritizing, the paper adds.