Pharma critics vie for House chairmanship

Two Congressional bulldogs are playing King of the Hill. Reps. John Dingell and Henry Waxman are battling over the top slot at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, a key health policy committee.

Dingell is the current chairman, and under his leadership the committee and its subsidiary, the subcommittee on investigations, have been a thorn in the side of FDA and industry alike. Dingell and his investigations chair, Rep. Bart Stupak, have gone after Merck and Schering-Plough over the embattled cholesterol med Vytorin. They've harassed Bayer and Amgen about marketing practices and chastised DTC advertising in general. They've raked the FDA over the coals, too.

Waxman is already on the committee, and he chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He, too, has plagued pharma with criticism of everything from Medicare Part D to a potential loosening of off-label marketing rules. He's challenging Dingell for the chairmanship of Energy and Commerce simply because he thinks it's time for new blood. Dingell has been the committee's top-ranking Democrat for 28 years, Waxman says.

Dingell won't go quietly, though. He's campaigned to keep the slot by emphasizing his committee's record at getting legislation through the House--91 bills over the past two years, with 27 signed into law. Stay tuned.

- read the WSJ Health Blog post