FDA commissioner Lester Crawford came under attack Tuesday from Congressional Democrats who said the agency needs greater power to order safety warnings on prescription drugs.
Lawmakers complained about the 14 months it took for the FDA to negotiate a new warning with Merck about the heart risks linked to Vioxx, with some legislators proposing new laws to boost the agency's authority to order quicker label changes.
According to a Reuters report, Crawford said he would be "open" to discussions "but we don't have any administration position" on the idea. "The system works as it is," Crawford added during the hearing of the House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat, replied, "How can you say the system works. You're not getting the job done."
Crawford defended the FDA's performance by noting that the agency had set up a board to evaluate safety concerns and is working to make more information available to the public.
"I pledge to you we will be a much more transparent and open organization," Crawford told reporters.
But Democratic Rep. Rosa Delauro of Connecticut said, "it flies in the face of openness" to keep the meetings of the new drug safety board private.
Crawford was confirmed as FDA commissioner last week after a months-long delay caused by a dispute in Congress over approval of the emergency contraceptive Plan B and an investigation into allegations of an affair with a colleague. Crawford was cleared of the allegations of an inappropriate relationship.