N.M. health official is likely pick to lead FDA Clinton administration favors Kessler ex-deputy

January 22, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration reportedly is eager to name Dr. Jane E. Henney, vice president of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, to fill the nearly yearlong vacancy created at the Food and Drug Administration by the resignation of its high-profile commissioner, Dr. David A. Kessler.

Among her credentials -- which include nearly a decade at the National Cancer Institute -- is that she worked for Kessler for two years as a close deputy.

While this makes her very appealing to the White House, consumer groups and Democrats, it could hurt her confirmation chances among Senate Republicans, many of whom were angered by Kessler's aggressive, hands-on style.

And observers believe that the last thing President Clinton needs right now is another confirmation battle during a time when he has endured several political and philosophical clashes with GOP senators.

The administration has not said when the FDA nomination will be forthcoming; one official said yesterday, "No announcement is imminent."

Within government circles, the job is regarded as one of immeasurable importance. The FDA regulates foods, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices -- products accounting for 25 cents of every consumer dollar spent.

Under Kessler, the FDA became especially active. Along with vigorously enforcing its statutes, it pushed a series of initiatives, some of which infuriated GOP leaders. The initiatives included rules to speed up drug approvals, revamp food labels and regulate tobacco,

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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