Reshuffle won't disrupt FDA, Pitts says

ROCKVILLE, MD: The FDA "will remain on plan" in achieving its communications objectives, said Peter Pitts, head of external relations for the agency, amid internal changes triggered by President Bush's nomination of commissioner Mark McClellan to run Medicare.

ROCKVILLE, MD: The FDA "will remain on plan" in achieving its communications objectives, said Peter Pitts, head of external relations for the agency, amid internal changes triggered by President Bush's nomination of commissioner Mark McClellan to run Medicare.

The announcement, which the White House made on February 20, came just 15 months after McClellan assumed the commissioner position at the FDA. During his tenure, he has been praised for facilitating the approval process of new drug therapies - previously something the agency was famously bad at.

If the Senate confirms the decision to make McClellan administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as expected, McClellan's deputy, Les Crawford, will become acting commissioner at the FDA. Pitts said Crawford "has that same commitment" to creating the "vibrant public health message" that McClellan was popular for.

"From an outreach perspective, people should expect to see considerably more of the same," said Pitts of McClellan's expected departure from the FDA. "We want to be engaged and proactive. If I felt that was going to change, then there would not be a place for me at the FDA."

When asked who would step into the vacant deputy commissioner post, Pitts said there would be a "management reshuffle," but said the FDA's "communications portfolio will remain the same."

He added that Crawford was "one of the key architects" in developing FDA's five-point strategic action plan, which was created in part to improve communications about healthcare with consumers. Specifically, the proposal addresses the FDA's intention to make direct-to-consumer advertising an educational tool.

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