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FDA COMMISSIONER SEARCH COMMITTEE INCLUDES THREE INDUSTRY

Executive Summary

FDA COMMISSIONER SEARCH COMMITTEE INCLUDES THREE INDUSTRY EXECS: one from the biotechnology industry, one from the drugs/biologics field, and one from agricultural chemicals. Among the 12 search committee members are Cetus Chairman Ronald Cape, PhD, Lederle-Praxis Biologicals President Ron Salderini, PhD, and Upjohn VP-Agriculture Research John Welser, PhD. The committee will hold its first meeting April 27. Like the 15-member FDA blue ribbon commission charged with reviewing FDA's mission, the search committee is carefully balanced with members from FDA-regulated industry, academia, health associations, and those familiar with the workings of FDA. Among the ex-HHS/FDA employees on the search committee are former FDA commissioner and Scripps Clinic President Charles Edwards, MD, who chairs the blue ribbon panel, and former HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Edward Brandt, MD/PhD. The search committee is unusually large and broad in background for selecting a government position at the level of the FDA commissioner. While the size may make it unwieldly, the breadth of representation could make the commissioner position more attractive by increasing its prestige in the eyes of potential candidates. FDA Center for Devices and Radiologic Health Director John Villforth is the only current FDA employee on the search committee. In an interesting twist, Acting Commissioner Benson served under Villforth as deputy director of the agency's Device Center before being appointed acting commissioner and deputy commissioner of FDA. Other search committee members include: Allan Fox, of the D.C. law firm Fox, Weinberg and Bennett; American Medical Association Acting Exec VP James Todd, MD; Ellen Haas of Public Voice for Food and Health Policy; Myrtle Brown, PhD; Jose Szapocznik, PhD, from the University of Miami's Department of Psychiatry; and James Doluisio, PhD, at the University of Texas College of Pharmacy. Doluisio was one of the figures considered as a possible candidate for FDA commissioner during the early 1980s. Fox was a prominent Senate aide to Sens. Javits (R-N.Y.) and Kennedy (D-Mass.) during another period of intense Congressional scrutiny for the agency during the late 1970s. With his double appointment to the search committee and the blue ribbon commission to review FDA's future, Scripps Chairman Edwards is emerging as a crucial figure in the agency's future. Edwards was reportedly contacted about his interest in the top FDA position at the end of last year. He declined that possibility but clearly has agreed to take an active role in planning for FDA's future. FDA Acting Commissioner Benson has been filling in forcefully since Com. Young's departure in mid-December. Agency management will be stronger in the future from Benson's experience. He has developed quickly into a decisive, knowledgeable insider giving FDA continuity of management whomever is chosen for the fulltime position. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health James Mason, MD, asked the search committee members to submit any personal recommendations they may have for FDA commissioner to him by April 16. Mason previously sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to 2,000 public and private, health and educational institutions seeking potential candidates for the FDA job ("The Pink Sheet" March 19, T&G-7).
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