"I have nothing against him, but I don't think he ought to be ambassador to Mexico."
---Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), opposing moderate Republican William Weld's nominationEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top
THE FDA'S ADVERSE REACTION
WASHINGTON IS RESISTING A European Union push for faster regulatory approval of each other's drugs and medical products. To save time and money, the EU wants the items it approves to be sold in America without a U.S. regulatory review. And FDA approval would permit automatic sale in Europe. But U.S. law requires the Food & Drug Administration to vet all new drugs.
Thus far, American trade negotiators have agreed to the EU plan for only 25 medical products, none of them drugs. Among those needing an O.K. on just one side of the ocean are new models of surgical knives, artificial limbs, and CAT scanners. Jan Kees van Soest, a top executive at Philips Medical Systems International, figures that not having to duplicate regulatory reviews "will save millions of dollars" for the Dutch maker of CAT scanners.
The Europeans are arguing for exempting 1,000 health products--including drugs--in one swipe. But getting to that level is so difficult, says one of the Americans in the talks, "we'll be negotiating for more than 100 years."William Echikson EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top
UNISYS STOPS PLAYING DOCTOR
UNISYS, WHICH DOES SUCH chores as processing medical claims for state governments, once had dreams of actually running a health-care plan. So two years ago, the computer outfit wrested the contract to manage the Florida state workers' medical plan from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida, which had run it for 17 years. But Florida has just torn up Unisys' four-year, $86 million contract. And CEO James Unruh is scrapping its ambitions of expanding into health-care insurance plans--a relatively small but potentially lucrative initiative.
The Florida contract was a two-year migraine for Unisys. After a welter of complaints from workers unable to get their medical bills paid on time or accurately, Unisys was repeatedly fined. The state is investigating charges by ex-staffers that data was changed to show that performance standards were met. The company denies the charges and says that there is no evidence of wrongdoing.
Unisys never understood the complexities of Florida's plan, says Ron Poppell, who heads the Employees' Insurance Div.: "We really need somebody that's in the insurance business." Unisys spokesman J. Peter Hynes says that the Florida plan proved more difficult to manage than was expected.Jennifer Reingold EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top
MOVE OVER, SHORTWAVE RADIO
SOME DAY SOON, A SATELLITE will let you tune into your favorite New York radio station in Los Angeles. And the broadcast will have terrific sound quality, thanks to digital technology. This so-called digital radio won't be available in the U.S. before 1999. But a new venture promises to bring it to Africa and Asia in 1998 and Latin America by 1999.
On June 10, an outfit named WorldSpace is due to unveil this $800 million venture. Based in Washington, the private company is vague about its financing; a spokeswoman says the capital is from international investors. WorldSpace has credibility among major corporations, though. French telecom giant Alcatel, for instance, has signed up to build the project's satellite systems. And WorldSpace is in talks with Bloomberg Information Radio, the BBC, and CNN Radio to carry their programs.
WorldSpace's CEO Noah Samara says he wants to bring digital radio's continent-wide transmissions to countries underserved by media. Under Samara, a U.S. citizen born in Ethiopia, WorldSpace traded its technology for a 20% stake in American Mobile Radio Corp., which aims to launch U.S. digital radio. AMRC's backers include Hughes Electronics.Catherine Yang EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top