Senators Threaten To Delay McClellan’s Nomination Because of Reimportation Issues
At a summit meeting of governors and members of Congress on Tuesday, some senators "threatened" to stall the confirmation of FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan as CMS administrator because of his "refusal ... to permit importation of lower-cost medicines from Canada," the Washington Post reports (Connolly, Washington Post, 2/25). President Bush on Friday nominated McClellan, a physician with a doctorate in economics, to oversee Medicaid and Medicare, which together provide about $700 billion annually in benefits to an estimated 83 million people. If McClellan wins confirmation from the Senate, the job would be the third senior health policy position he has held in the Bush administration. At FDA, McClellan pushed for quicker reviews of drug and other product applications, successfully lobbied Congress to expand industry user-fee programs that fund FDA activities and made decisions on controversial issues, such as banning the diet supplement ephedra and reversing an advisory panel decision to keep silicone breast implants off the market. McClellan also has focused on defusing support for prescription drug reimportation (California Healthline, 2/23). The Senate Finance Committee is considering the nomination (Rovner, CongressDaily, 2/25). While McClellan "is highly regarded" on Capitol Hill, "one senator could easily delay the nomination," the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 2/25). According to the Post, although none of the legislators said on Tuesday that they doubted "McClellan's qualifications for the post," they said that "they see his upcoming nomination hearings as leverage on the drug importation issue." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that he will delay McClellan's confirmation "until there's a full and complete explanation of why he will not make prescription drugs from Canada available to Americans" (Washington Post, 2/25). McCain added, "Dr. McClellan has done a great disservice by trying to frighten our citizens into believing that drugs imported from Canada are somehow hazardous or dangerous." Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said, "Dr. McClellan has waged a relentless campaign against the importation of prescription drugs. We want to know why the FDA has embarked on this crusade. It's supposed to regulate, not represent, the pharmaceutical industry." Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said that McClellan "has gone way beyond what's necessary or prudent," adding, "He has been very strident and has taken the position of the industry." William Pierce, an HHS spokesperson, said that it would not be fair to delay the confirmation, adding, "Dr. McClellan has impeccable credentials and is highly qualified. We hope he will continue to receive bipartisan support" (New York Times, 2/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.