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FDA COMMISSIONER SEARCH COMMITTEE HAS ABOUT TWO DOZEN

Executive Summary

FDA COMMISSIONER SEARCH COMMITTEE HAS ABOUT TWO DOZEN potential candidates from the initial responses to HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Mason's mid-March request for nominations from interested FDA constituencies. Mason sent out about 2,500 letters in March asking medical societies, trade associations, former and current HHS and FDA officials and academic institutions. He requested candidate suggestions in time for the search committee's first meeting on April 27. By the time of the first meeting, the committee had received the names of only 26 potential candidates, and about half-dozen of the people whose names were suggested asked not to be considered. Because of the relatively limited number of candidates, Mason reportedly has asked the 12-member search committee to try to seek out additional names. HHS is further encouraging other nominations from outside groups. The paucity of nominations may reflect the short lead time of one month allowed by Mason and the bad headlines about FDA over the last year. The response may also be interpreted as an indirect compliment from the FDA constituency for the fill-in effort by Acting Commissioner Benson. Most associations declined Mason's invitation to suggest candidates. Those not responding included the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, the American Medical Association, the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association, and the Health Industry Manufacturers Association. While the number of first candidates is limited, some of the names suggested fit the conventional wisdom formula for a successful candidate -- combining Republican political experience with academic or medical organizational skills: Edward Burger, MD -- Director of the D.C.-based Institute of Health Policy Analysis and professor of community and family medicine at Georgetown University. Burger, 57, has served on a number of advisory committees and policy groups during the Nixon-Ford and Reagan Administrations. A founder of the think-tank where he is currently director, he is well known in Washington and has a wide range of contacts. The think-tank was originally affiliated with Georgetown University but separated in late 1989. Among a long list of past consultantships, Burger lists a project with the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, where he served as the first head of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. David Kessler, MD -- Medical director of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Kessler is a former aide to Sen. Hatch (R-Utah), a key Capitol Hill figure in the oversight and funding of FDA. Hatch has played a role in previous lower-level FDA appointments and can be expected to take an interest in the pending choice of a full-time commissioner. Kessler is also on the "Blue Ribbon Panel" reviewing the future needs and mandate for FDA under the leadership of ex-FDA Commissioner Charles Edwards (President of the Scripps Clinic). Edwards and the blue ribbon panel may have an overlapping effect on the search committee activities. Edwards himself is on both committees. A strong organizational planner, Edwards is expected by many observers to play a forceful role in the planning and personnel choices for FDA in the near future. Mason's committee may also meet in conjunction once with the search committee or part of it to coordinate their efforts. The blue ribbon panel meets for the first time on May 17-18.
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