The Post's Al Kamen reports that Obama is down to two finalists for FDA commissioner: former New York City health commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who also served as an assistant HHS secretary in the Clinton administration, and current Baltimore health commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, formerly a health policy advisor to Rep. Harry Waxman.
Under the Bush administration, the FDA was relentlessly politicized, most notoriously when it delayed approval of over-the-counter emergency contraceptives, even after independent medical research found that the drug was safe for girls and women of all ages.
The good news is that both Hamburg and Sharfstein have excellent records on reproductive health, and a host of other issues. In the late 1980s, Hamburg, a pharmacology expert, worked on HIV/AIDS research at the NIH. In 1993, she was President Clinton's pick to be the first ever federal AIDS coordinator. Pregnant at the time, she turned the job down. As New York City health commissioner in the 1990s, she created a successful program to assist tuberculosis patients in accessing and properly taking their medications.
Sharfstein worked for the Obama transition, leading the FDA agency assessment team. His long-term interest in medical ethics is an excellent fit for the FDA; in several medical journal articles, Sharfstein protested Pfizer's marketing to doctors and tracked the AMA's political contributions. I especially like that he worked for Waxman, who, as head of the Government Reform and Oversight Commitee, published hard-hitting reports on Big Tobacco and "crisis pregnancy centers." In Baltimore, Sharfstein has championed food safety issues and, more controversially, new treatment methods for heroin addicts.
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