United States Food and Drug Administration officials were, understandably, pleased late last year when Congress authorized the agency to hire 600 new drug reviewers. Additional staff, FDA officials contended at the time, would be bound to reduce-- perhaps by as much as half--the time required for pharmaceuticals to move through the agency's review process and, thus, make great inroads in relieving FDA's long-criticized "biotech bottleneck."

Now, however, the edge of optimism among the officials has been dulled a bit, as they realize that they may have some trouble finding and hiring the right scientists to fill those 600 open positions.

Attracting the new reviewers, who will be financed through user fees levied on pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, will be difficult, they say. For one thing, no new employment incentives are being offered. In addition, there are the usual drawbacks of goverment and FDA employment: the bureaucratic red tape involved in...

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