Former FDA Chief Receives Sentencing

Former FDA Chief Receives SentencingLester M. Crawford, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA), was fined almost $90,000 and put on three years of supervised probation after pleading guilty in October to misdemeanor charges of conflict of interest and false stock reporting. The sentence was tougher than either prosecutors or defense attorneys had expected, and it also includes 50 days of community service.

U.S. Attorney Howard Sklamberg told Judge Deborah Robinson at the sentencing hearing this week that although there was “no giant fraud scheme,” Crawford had been “indifferent,” “callous,” and “arrogant” about ethics rules.

Crawford had lied about his holdings in several companies by filing erroneous disclosure statements that claimed he had sold the investments in question. Prosecutors in the case claimed that Crawford “knowingly” made false statements with regard to his ownership stake in several companies, including Kimberly-Clark, PepsiCo, and Sysco each of which are considered “significantly regulated” companies by the FDA, therefore making them off-limits to FDA employees. Crawford also failed to disclose his exercise of stock options in the biotech company Embrex.

The veterinarian had served as deputy commissioner of the FDA from February of 2002 until March of 2004, at which point he was named acting commissioner. In February of 2005, he was nominated for the permanent commissioner’s role and was eventually confirmed by the Senate on July 18 of that year. However, Crawford resigned abruptly and without explanation less than three months later after a tumultuous and controversial tenure. Among the issues he faced as FDA head were the removal of Vioxx from the market due to safety concerns; a recall of malfunctioning heart devices; and tainted flu vaccines. The biggest controversy of his term revolved around the delayed approval of over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.

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