Noonan replaces Welch as acting director of FDA supplement office

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Ildo Frazao
©Getty Images - Ildo Frazao

Related tags regulations Dietary supplement industry

FDA’s supplement office has a new acting director in a mandated internal personnel switch while the process to name a new permanent director drags on.

It was announced yesterday that Gregory Noonan, PhD, will replace Cara Welch, PhD, as the interim director fo the Office of Dietary Supplement Programs (ODSP) at the US Food and Drug Administration.  Welch will return to her previous job as deputy director.  Noonan comes to the new position after serving as acting director of the Division of Research and Evaluation and acting deputy director. Noonan’s position of record is Senior Science Advisor for Chemistry in CFSAN’s Office of Regulatory Science.  He has been with FDA since 2002.

CRN: Switch comes as part of personnel policy

Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said not too much should be read into the switch.  It shouldn’t be seen as some sort of comment on Welch’s tenure; rather its a mandated switch to forestall acting directors from ‘acting’ too long.

“We saw the same sort of thing before Steve Tave was named director of the office,” ​Mister told NutraIngredients-USA.  “It’s simply a matter of the internal processes at FDA.  Someone can only hold that position for so long,”

Mister said that while there is no concern that there was a need for new leadership because of a performance issue, it is concerning that the position continues to be filled on an interim basis.  Mister noted that the agency as a whole also still lacks a  permanent director.  Dr Janet Woodcock, MD, has served as acting FDA Commissioner since January.

“I don’t know why it is taking so long to fill this position but it is a concern within the industry,”​ Mister said. “If you don’t have a permanent appointment at one of these positions it makes it that much harder to set a permanent course.”

Mister noted that FDA faces an increasing number of big ticket items related to the dietary supplement industry.  Those include a resolution of the hemp/CBD issue, the status of NAC, an ingredient in a number of big selling products, ironing out the wrinkles in the NDI Draft Guidance, and whether a mandatory product listing will ever come to pass.  Progress on all of those issues could be hampered by not having one authoritative voice to direct the debate.

“The last administration deservedly took some heat because they didn’t have permanent appointees in many positions.  You have thought the Biden Administration would have made more of an effort to get these positions quickly,”​ he said.

NPA:  Is ODSP’s authority being diminished?

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president and CEO of the Natural Products Association, echoed the concern that the industry may have a more difficult time weighing in on these pending debates if decisions at FDA are being made by shifting coalitions of lower level employees.

“While we definitely look forward to working with Greg, we’d like to have some direction and know there is some autonomy for the office,”​ he said.

“These are all big ticket items that seem to be moving forward without a steady hand on the wheel.  These decisions seem to be being made by groups,” ​Fabricant added.

UNPA:  Noonan has unique perspective

Loren Israelsen, president of the Natural Products Alliance, said that it was welcome to see that Welch will remain in the office in a high position to lend her experience to the resolution of these matters.  And, he noted, Noonan brings some unique talents to the table.

“He brings a very strong background in chemistry and a particular interest in nanoparticles,” ​Israelsen noted.

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