Margaret Hamburg, a former commissioner of health for New York City, has been tapped by President Obama to become the next head of the Food and Drug Administration.

Margaret Hamburg, FDA, Food and Drug Administration, New York City Health Department, John Schultz, President Obama, Biotechnology Industry Organization, BIO, Generic Pharmaceutical Association, GPhA, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, Jim Greenwood, Kathleen Jaeger, Billy Tauzin

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Ex-NYC health chief named to head FDA

April 6th, 2009

WASHINGTON – Margaret Hamburg, a former commissioner of health for New York City, has been tapped by President Obama to become the next head of the Food and Drug Administration.

Hamburg is an internationally recognized leader in public health and medicine and an authority in such areas as public health systems, infectious disease and bioterrorism. Her appointment requires Senate confirmation.

“Hamburg brings to this vital position not only a reputation of integrity but a record of achievement in making Americans safer and more secure,” Obama said in a statement, adding that his nominee is also one of the youngest people ever elected to the National Academy of Science’s institute of medicine.

The 53-year-old Hamburg was credited by the president with helping to turn around a demoralized New York City health department during her tenure there from 1991 to 1997, as she cut the tuberculosis rate by nearly half in the nation’s largest city. Hamburg also worked on health policy issues in the Clinton administration.

The three major pharmaceutical industry trade groups — the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) — praised the selection of Hamburg.

If confirmed, she would oversee an agency that has been beset in recent years by such issues as drug recalls and food poisoning.

“Hamburg’s background in public health and bioterrorism make her uniquely qualified,” comments BIO president and chief executive officer Jim Greenwood. “The FDA needs a strong commissioner to fulfill its expanding obligations.”

GPhA president and CEO Kathleen Jaeger pledges that the generics industry is prepared to work with the FDA commissioner-designate.

“Hamburg’s outstanding experience in government and health care make her an excellent choice to lead the FDA,” she states. “Now, more than ever, the FDA needs a strong, smart manager — Hamburg answers that call.”

In noting PhRMA’s support for Obama’s choice, president and CEO Billy Tauzin points out that the FDA has been a cornerstone of the country’s fight to improve the health of Americans.

“The agency needs a strong, independent leader who embraces the need to advocate for an empowered FDA that is adequately resourced to carry out its crucial mission,” Tauzin says. “We anticipate Hamburg will be instrumental in driving the agency forward in a similar fashion. She brings managerial skills that are essential for directing the growing number of science-based activities within the FDA.”

On top of the appointment of Hamburg, Obama has attempted to bolster the leadership ranks of the FDA with the nomination of Joshua Sharfstein as principal deputy commissioner. He currently serves as commissioner of health for Baltimore and is recognized for his efforts to protect children from the improper use of over-the-counter medications and ensure that those with disabilities have access to prescription medications.