FDA chief resigns as lawmakers to lunch inquiry on his finances

Federal investigators to launch an inquiry into allegations that former Food and Drug commissioner Lester Crawford failed to fully disclose financial holdings, a development that led to his abrupt resignation last week.

US Representative Maurice Hinchey, Democrat of New York, today will ask the federal inspector general's office to examine the reasons for Crawford's resignation.

"We're very hopeful that your office will able to shed some light on this matter, specifically as it pertains to the presence of conflicts of interest, such as inappropriate and undisclosed pharmaceutical company stock holdings," Hinchey wrote in a letter to the inspector general's office.

Crawford's brother-in-law described Crawford's unexpected departure as the act of a frustrated man who wanted to shield his wife, Catherine, from further inquiries.

"He's had a number of investigations coming into this job and going through the hearings. And he'd had enough," said William W. Walker III, 72, of Birmingham, Ala.

"I don't know what he's gone through, but I would like for him to exonerate himself," Walker said. "But it's just hard to do in this day and time. And he said he wasn't going to put his wife through anymore of that."

Earlier this week, Walker told The New York Times that his sister shared the cash proceeds when family-owned Walker Drug Co. was sold in 1997 for $140 million. The company that bought it was itself acquired and ultimately became AmerisourceBergen Corp., the newspaper reported yesterday, reports Boston Globe.

Crawford told Forbes.com that he decided to leave FDA because he was tiring after three years at the agency. He denies that financial conflicts of interest had anything to do with his decision to resign.

"I thought it was time for somebody else to do it," Crawford says. "I didn't think it was possible to be very effective anymore."

In addition to being worn out by working 20-hour days, Crawford says several other factors contributed to his decision. First, there had been a great deal of controversy over decisions related to the "morning-after pill," a form of birth control that Barr Laboratories has tried to take over the counter, and RU-486, the abortion pill. He says he didn't feel ready to deal with another set of such controversies.


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