FDA: Clinton “Tentatively” Selects New Commissioner
Clinton administration officials yesterday said the president "has tentatively chosen a cancer specialist who is vice president of the University of New Mexico" to be the next Food and Drug Administration commissioner, "a position that has been vacant more than 14 months." The likely appointee, Dr. Jane Henney, served as deputy commissioner at the FDA from 1992 to 1994 before leaving for the University of New Mexico, where "she supervises a medical school, a college of pharmacy and several teaching hospitals." From 1976 to 1985 she worked at the National Cancer Institute, "serving as deputy director for five years, and she was vice chancellor of the University of Kansas before working at the FDA." The New York Times notes that Henney is "also president of the United State Pharmacopeia, a private nonprofit organization that sets legally enforceable standards for the purity and quality of medicines."
A Controversial Posting
According to the Times, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, as well as "many Republicans in Congress, said they wanted to be sure that Dr. Henney ... took a less confrontational approach" than the last FDA commissioner, Dr. David Kessler. Stephen Northrup, executive director of the Medical Device Manufacturers Association, said: "We want a more cooperative approach, in which the FDA works with industry to see that patients gain timely access to new treatments and technologies." The Times notes that the next head of the FDA faces several challenges, including the implementation of a new law "intended to speed the approval of prescription drugs and improve the regulation of medical devices and food products." The new FDA commissioner will also play "a big role" in any federal government efforts to regulate tobacco and curb youth smoking.
The Times notes that "[i]t is virtually impossible for any candidate to please both the drug industry and consumer advocates." However, Henney enjoys the support of some pharmaceutical and biotech companies, including Pfizer Inc.'s Marc Scheineson, a former colleague of Henney's at the FDA during the Bush administration, who called Henney "an independent, open-minded individual." In addition, Henney is backed by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who "strongly recommended" her appointment. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) also said he will support Henney's nomination. However, the Times notes that "several drug company lobbyists said they" would like to see acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Michael Friedman appointed instead of Henney.
A Word Of Advice
Sen. James Jeffords (R-VT), the chair of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and "main author of the 1997 law revamping the FDA," said "the next commissioner should foster collaboration with industry and 'redirect FDA from its recent past tendency toward unreasonable product approval requirements and delays'" (Pear, 5/19).