The White House is shrugging off pressure from members of Congress, patient advocates and medical groups to nominate a permanent FDA commissioner. The administration won't get serious about whittling down the long lists of candidates for the top slots at FDA or NIH until other appointments are made, and warns that the confirmation process will take several more months after that.

"I am concerned about NIH and FDA, and we are looking at them," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson recently told reporters. "First we want to get the deputy (HHS Secretary); then we want to get the assistant secretary of health and some of the other assistant secretaries, because we are looking for researchers, and we want to get some input from some of the research organizations. So that's going to take a little bit longer. But even after we designate them, it will be several months before they're approved."