Ordinarily this would be good news. The FDA has been implacable in its opposition to such imports, so a study ought
to provide a basis for reevaluation of their position, perhaps leading to the development of safety-related guidelines, or with more permissive rules for certain classes of drugs. But the headlines in today's papers tell a slightly different story, because the head of the study is Mark McClellan, the president's nominee to head CMS, current FDA Administrator, and the point man in the administration's very public drive to squelch imports. In the N.Y. Times
, both aspects of the story appear in their headline: "U.S. to Study Importing Canada Drugs but Choice of Leader Prompts Criticism"
. The San Diego Union-Tribune's headline over the A.P. story wasn't nearly as balanced: "Foe of drug imports to lead study of the issue"
. In a presidential election year, every move by the administration is subject to scrutiny and evaluation for its political content. This decision, however, defies ready explanation. As obviously talented as Mark McClellan is, he is not the right person for this job. Putting him in charge of the study makes it look like this will be a worthless effort to shore up our existing anti-importation policy. And who gets hurt by this policy? In large numbers, retirees whose votes the administration was cultivating with their disastrous Medicare reform law.