Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered the following opening remarks at the Senate HELP Hearing on the Nomination of Dr. Margaret Hamburg for FDA Commissioner.

“I’m pleased to be chairing this hearing on the nomination of Dr. Margaret Hamburg for Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

“First, I’d like to send my warmest wishes to our Chairman, Senator Kennedy, who continues to be a great champion for high quality health care for all Americans. And, I would like to thank Senator Enzi, our Ranking Member.

“I am looking forward to hearing from you Dr. Hamburg, and I truly hope that my colleagues will join me in moving forward quickly on this nomination.

“The Food and Drug Administration plays a crucial role in ensuring that drugs and medical devices are safe, and that life-saving drugs move safely from the laboratory to the patient. But over the past eight years American consumers have come to question the independence and effectiveness of the agency.

“I have always supported a strong and independent Food and Drug Administration. It is the only way in which the FDA can truly operate effectively and with the confidence of American consumers and health care providers.

“Americans must have faith that when they walk into their local grocery store or pharmacy that the products they purchase are safe and effective and that their approval has been based on sound science – not political pressure or pandering to interest groups.

“A number of issues have come up recently that have highlighted just how important the FDA is in the lives of American families. We have all seen the importance of effective drug oversight with the recent concerns over medications like Vioxx.

“And I hear from families all of the time who tell me they don’t want to have to worry that the peanut butter sandwich they pack for their child’s lunch could be tainted. Or that the drugs that they need to stay healthy could end up making them even worse.

“The FDA plays a critical role in protecting families across America, and we need to ensure that it has the leadership and resources that it needs to do this well.

“And we also need to ensure that the FDA puts science ahead of politics. The health and well-being of the American people should not blow with the political winds. Part of the goal of improving health care in this country is ensuring Americans have access to safe, effective medicines in a timely fashion and guaranteeing that the FDA remains the Gold Standard when it comes to drug approval is key to that effort.

“For all of these reasons, I believe that Dr. Hamburg is the right nominee to lead the FDA.

“Dr. Hamburg is a highly qualified expert in the area of public health. Not only is she a Harvard educated doctor, but she also has strong public health experience at both the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, as well as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH. Dr. Hamburg also has great leadership experience—serving from 1991-1997 as New York City’s youngest ever Health Commissioner.

“In this position she designed an aggressive tuberculosis control program that is credited with lowering the city's TB rate by 46% between 1992 and 1997.

“She also worked to put in place programs designed to slow the spread of AIDS, helped boost childhood immunization rates, and developed one of the first programs to prepare the public for a terrorist attack using anthrax or other bio-chemical weapons.

“And after serving at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, Dr. Hamburg became Vice President for biological programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation dedicated to reducing the threat to public safety from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

“Dr. Hamburg has displayed strong leadership and ability over the course of her career, and comes to us now highly qualified to lead the FDA and help restore American families’ confidence in our medicine and our food.

“And we need a highly qualified leader like Dr. Hamburg. I want to thank you Dr. Hamburg for taking the time to have a conversation with me last month. I know that the FDA faces a number of significant challenges--from concerns about available resources, to organizational challenges, to management issues.

“But I am confident that although you have a tough job ahead of you—your experience, ability, and leadership are just what we need at the FDA. And that is why I encourage my colleagues to move Dr. Hamburg quickly through this process. Families across our country deserve an FDA Commissioner who will help protect them from unsafe food and drugs- and who will always put science over politics.

“I look forward to working with Senator Kennedy to ensure that this is a speedy process.”