Mark McClellan, a physician and economist, has been nominated by President George W. Bush to be the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an agency that has not had an official leader since the president took office more than 20 months ago.
The FDA regulates medical products, cosmetics and 80 percent of all food—almost one-quarter of the nation's economy—and employs about 10,000 people. It is the agency that regulates the dietary supplements industry.
McClellan meets the requirement Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., set: No close ties to any industry regulated by the FDA. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved his nomination by unanimous voice vote Oct. 9. His confirmation by the Senate was expected at press time.
McClellan, 39, has worked in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. He was deputy assistant secretary of the treasury for economic policy during the Clinton administration and was President Bush's top health care adviser at the time he was nominated. He has an M.D. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"From what I understand of his background in health care policy and economic issues, it should provide an opportunity for an improved dialogue with the agency on the economic benefits of promoting health and preventing illness through supplement use," said Ronald Fugate, vice president/general manager of Inter-Cal Nutraceuticals, Prescott, Ariz. "I think it's a positive for the industry."
Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council based in Austin, Texas, said that McClellan comes from a prominent political Texas family. His mother, Carole Keeton Rylander, was the mayor of Austin and is now the Texas state comptroller. His grandfather, Page Keeton, was dean of the University of Texas law school. His brother, Scott, is a White House spokesman.
"He's got a lot of things going for him down here before he even starts," Blumenthal said. "And that's beyond deference for the position. But I don't have any information at this time that suggests he'd be good for the industry or adversarial. He seems to be bright, affable and capable."
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 11/p. 7