In the presidential debate, George W. Bush said that if he were president, he wouldn't have the power to change the Food and Drug Administration's approval of abortion drug RU-486. Does the president have the power to change an FDA ruling?
Technically, no. Since a new president can choose his own secretary and commissioner, he could ask the FDA to review a drug's approval process. But that wouldn't require the commissioner to perform a review. And it is very unlikely a drug's approval would be overturned without compelling scientific evidence that the drug is neither safe nor effective.
The best bet would be Congress. It can outlaw a drug, and a president could urge and support such legislation. (Congress is working on various strategies now to limit the availability of RU-486.) Congressional intervention in FDA drug decisions is rare. But back in the 1970s, Congress passed a law preventing the FDA from taking a proposed action to ban saccharine.
Explainer wishes to thank Richard A Merrill, professor of law at the University of Virginia Law School