Magazine article Drug Topics

The Big Wait

Magazine article Drug Topics

The Big Wait

Article excerpt

Senate clock

ticking on

Clinton's pick

for FDA chief

The doctor wants to be in, but is there enough time to get her in? That's the spot in which United States Pharmacopeia (USP) president Jane E. Henney, M.D., President Clinton's choice to be the first woman to lead the Food & Drug Administration, now finds herself. The 51-year-old university administrator, cancer investigator, and ex-FDA official needs Senate confirmation for the job, and Congress has set an Oct. 9 adjournment target. "It will be very difficult to do this before Congress is out," predicted Sen. James Jeffords (R, Vt.), chairman of the Labor & Human Resources Committee, which must first approve the nomination to send it to the full Senate for a vote.

Earlier this month, the Labor Committee held a hearing on the nomination, with the only real controversy arising over RU-486, the so-called French abortion drug awaiting final FDA clearance. Several senators, including Mike Enzi (R, Wyo.), questioned Henney on the abortifacient and whether the agency evaluated the safety and effectiveness of the drug on the fetus. Henney, noting that she was not involved in the review of RU-486 during her tenure as deputy commissioner in 1992-94, said that the agency studied only the intended use and the impact on the user.

Although her overall reception by the committee was friendly, it doesn't compare to the rave reviews she received from pharmacy officials in New Mexico, where she's been v.p. for health sciences at the state university since leaving the FDA. "She's a top-notch person," Dale Tinker, executive director of the New Mexico Pharmaceutical Association, told Drug Topics. "She's absolutely super. She's reformatted our health sciences center to bring it together as a group instead of each individual school going off wherever they were going to go."

William H. Hadley, dean of the UNM College of Pharmacy, agreed. "I can't say enough about her understanding and support for pharmacy in its transition, and this college is a good example of the level of that support," he said. He described Henney as a "prime driver" of the college's new Pharm.D. program. "We had been trying to convert to the entry-level Pharm.D. program and secure the resources for it for many years," he explained. "Before she [even] got to campus, she looked at our program and said that we needed to make that transition. …

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