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D.C. Cowboy

The FDA’s latest commissioner rides in from the Lone Star State.

His brother Scott is President George W. Bush’s press secretary. His mother, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, is two-term comptroller of Texas. A prince among Republicans in that state, physician and health economist Mark McClellan arrived in late 2002 at a demoralized U.S. Food and Drug Administration that had been without a commissioner for two years.

Mark McClellan; Copyright © 2004 Acumen Sciences, LLC, All Rights Reserved.Dr. McClellan lost his Austin drawl, possibly during a stint in Massachusetts—he earned a Ph.D. in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.D. from a joint MIT-Harvard program—or at Stanford University, where he was an internist and taught medicine and economics. In 1998, he was Bill Clinton’s deputy assistant secretary of treasury for economic policy; more recently, he served as senior policy director for health care in the Bush administration. Feisty and combative, Dr. McClellan has spent his first year launching reforms to improve the FDA and has earned respect from patient advocacy and industry groups alike.

Although it is too soon to tell whether his reforms will stick, the 40 year old already takes credit for quickening the pace of drug approvals through upgrades that streamline the application process.

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