Senate confirms von Eschenbach as chief of FDA

Andrew von Eschenbach gained the overwhelming support of the Senate in his long-delayed bid to become chief of the FDA. Senators supported his nomination by a vote of 80 to 11. Among the small band of opponents were several Republicans, including Senator Charles Grassley, who has been steaming over what he sees as a lack of cooperation at the agency in his investigation of the controversial antibiotic Ketek. Von Eschenbach has been acting head of the FDA for slightly more than a year now. During that time he erased a major obstacle to his confirmation by allowing access to Plan B, the morning after pill, without a prescription.

Von Eschenbach's confirmation as head of the FDA will likely trigger a collective sigh of relief in the drug development world. Over the past six years of the Bush administration, the agency has had an official chief for only 18 months. The previous head of the FDA resigned shortly after gaining confirmation to the office and was recently charged with a conflict of interest. Drug developers are looking to the FDA to deliver on the Critical Path Initiative and other projects aimed at streamlining the drug approval process. They're also wary of just how much new research work they'll be required to do on newly approved drugs as the FDA works to reassure a skeptical public that the drugs it approves are indeed safe. Von Eschenbach will play a major role in all of those decisions.

- here's the Washington Post's report on the vote
- read BIO's statement on von Eschenbach's confirmation