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The New York Times reports that concerns about the reimportation of inexpensive medicines could hold up President Bush's nomination of Dr. Mark B. McClellan, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to be administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As head of the FDA, McClellan has opposed any changes in federal laws that prohibit such reimportation, saying that the government couldn’t guarantee the safety of such drugs.

Now, two Democratic senators - Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan - say they will hold up the appointment until the Bush administration explains and justifies its position on reimportation.

Sen. Dorgan was critical yesterday of the decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to name McClellan to lead a government study of reimportation.

"It's unbelievable," said Sen. Dorgan told the Associated Press. "Dr. McClellan has made it known that he believes reimportation is unsafe, which obviously reflects the interests of the pharmaceutical industry. If ever there were a fox in the chicken coop situation, this is it."

It's hardly a partisan issue. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) told the NYT, "Dr. McClellan has done a great disservice by trying to frighten our citizens into believing that drugs imported from Canada are somehow hazardous or dangerous." Sen. McCain said that McClellan has refused to testify on the issue before the Commerce Committee that he chairs.
KC's View:
We continue to believe that the administration will tap dance on this issue until after the elections in the fall. It's just too hot a potato to deal with when the likely margin of victory or defeat is so narrow.