The New Acting FDA Commissioner – Frank Torti

We have seen the big change with the Inauguration of President Obama.  In our smaller world concerned with the FDA, there has also been significant change.  Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach has left the FDA effective January 20, leaving Dr. Frank Torti in the position of Acting Commissioner.

Gone too is "Andy's Take" – a weekly homily from the former Commissioner written on the FDA site and posted, curiously enough, late on Fridays.  Yesterday, however, Acting Commissioner Torti used the same space to introduce himself and of course changing the name of the venue to "Viewpoint:  A Message from the Acting FDA Commissioner."

In his first communication, he wisely notes that the role of Acting Commissioner may well be more difficult than that of Commissioner, if for no other reason, than the direction of someone in an acting capacity is kind of tainted with a tentativeness that undermines efficacy.  He notes that the work of the FDA however, must not be "tentative or delayed" which is also true.  

Unfortunately, to the many critics of the agency, the past several years have seemed tentative as the agency's reputation went from gold to tarnished standard and regulatory enforcement seems to have diminished while investment in the agency has increased.  It is an unenviable role indeed to be in an acting capacity when the agency is in such need of fresh leadership and vision that is enunciated and where progress can be marked and understood.  

Dr. Torti's biography indicates he has a solid background in research which will suit him well and his name has been frequently mentioned as the Commissioner of the FDA.  However, in an acting capacity, his ability to make the kinds of strategic fundamental and meaningful changes will be very much reduced.  The Obama Administration needs to decide and decide quickly who will fill the position permanently.  In the meantime, all that can be done, should be done to support the new Acting Commissioner in his role.   
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