May 19, 2009 / 12:24 AM / 10 years ago

Obama's U.S. FDA pick wins Senate clearance

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted on Monday to confirm Dr. Margaret Hamburg to run the Food and Drug Administration, the agency that oversees a vast array of products from foods to prescription drugs and medical devices.

Hamburg has pledged to restore confidence in the FDA after accusations that officials placed politics ahead of science during the George W. Bush administration and were slow to respond to food contamination and drug safety problems.

The FDA regulates prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vaccines, medical devices, most foods and other products that account for about one-quarter of the U.S. economy.

Criticism of the FDA escalated after the 2004 recall of Merck & Co Inc’s arthritis medicine Vioxx, a drug taken by millions that was linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Hamburg is a Harvard-trained doctor and former New York City health commissioner known for her work in bioterrorism preparations and other public health issues.

At her confirmation hearing, Hamburg said her priorities would include improving the safety of medical products and foods.

She also said she would see if more could be done to make flu-related medical products and laboratory tests available amid concerns about the new H1N1 swine flu strain.

“Her expertise and judgment will serve FDA well,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said after the Senate unanimously confirmed Hamburg’s nomination to head the agency.

Democrats and Republicans praised Hamburg as well-qualified for the job.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Gary Hill

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