Washington Notebook

WASHINGTON - Lead Deputy FDA Commissioner Michael Friedman is emerging as the leading candidate to be nominated by President Clinton as the next FDA Commissioner, according to industry and Capitol Hill sources. Friedman, who successfully negotiated terms of the second round of prescription drug user fees with the Biotechnology Industry Organization and PhRMA, is said to be one of about five names HHS Secretary Donna Shalala recently forwarded to the White House and is considered to be the administration's top choice.

Because Friedman has a low media profile and his views on tobacco and other controversial FDA issues are not known, his nomination would fulfill the White House's desire to avoid a contentious Senate confirmation process. But Friedman's lack of stature and FDA insider status could disappoint the biotech sector, which has been seeking a high-profile outsider who could shake up the agency, as well as consumer groups that want a crusader to fill former FDA Commissioner David Kessler's shoes.