Separate food, drug agencies sought

WASHINGTON — As momentum builds to rework the nation's food-safety system after a salmonella outbreak linked to peanuts, the drug industry is hoping for a happy side effect: faster approvals for new medicines.

Drug industry advocates are allying with some longtime critics pushing to split the Food and Drug Administration into two agencies, one for food safety, one for medical products.

President Barack Obama bolstered such hopes this month when he named two public health specialists to the agency's top positions and appointed an advisory group to reassess decades-old food safety laws.

Drug executives see a chance to speed up approvals that have lagged amid a drought of new products, provided their regulator is no longer distracted by food-safety breakdowns.

"Every CEO that I know in health care is in favor of this, but none that value their share prices will go on the record" for fear of FDA retribution, said Steve Brozak, president of investment brokerage WBB Securities.