Friday, December 12, 2008

Obama Picks for FDA Commissioner--A Fight Brewing?

An alert correspondent pointed me to the WSJ blog for rumors of who might be the new FDA Commissioner in the next administration:

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB122902814065899257-lMyQjAxMDI4MjE5MjAxMjI4Wj.html

It's a pretty good bet that either of the two top names mentioned in the blog post, Joshua Sharfstein and Steven Nissen, would be seen as anathema by the drug industry. Therefore the battle over who gets named FDA head will be an excellent barometer of whether the new Congress and White House are positioned to rein in PhRMA power and influence, or whether it is going to be more of the same. (PhRMA hopes for more of the same, as they tilted heavily toward giving campaign contributions to Dems last year just to be prepared for this eventuality.)

The WSJ post mentions Janet Woodcock as a possible compromise interim head of FDA if the politics get nasty and a new permanent commissioner cannot be agreed on right away. I do not know any of these people and in private, Woodcock might be a wonderful person and eager to take the FDA in a new direction. Under the Bush administration, virtually every public statement Woodcock has made that I can recollect offhand has been as a pro-industry apologist. The history of PhRMA influence over legislation is that you seldom see a major debate on the floor of Congress over a measure. Instead, there is great hoopla over some reform (such as allowing imported drugs from Canada to lower prices). Then the measure is sent to committee. Then months and months go by and somehow, everything quietly disappears and it is as if the hoopla never happened. The influence PhRMA likes to wield is usually in the proverbial back room. So if the commissioner appointment seems somehow to disappear, and an interim commissioner stays on longer than was first planned, we'll know that things are working out as PhRMA wanted.

1 comment:

Marilyn Mann said...

Steve Nissen is a friend and my husband and daughter's cardiologist. I think he would be an excellent choice.

Marilyn