The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the agency that runs the 340B drug pricing program, has a permanent leader again for the first time in almost a year.
Carole Johnson started in her position as HRSA administrator on Tuesday, Jan. 4, a HRSA spokesperson said yesterday. Career civil servant Diana Espinosa, who filled in as acting administrator since the Biden administration began, has returned to her position as deputy administrator.
The HRSA administrator is chosen by the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary and does not require Senate confirmation. Johnson was the Biden administration’s COVID-19 testing czar. Before that, she ran the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and served for more than five years in the Obama White House as the Domestic Policy Council’s senior health policy adviser. Earlier in her career Johnson managed health workforce policy issues in HRSA’s Bureau of Health Professions. Johnson also has worked on Capitol Hill and in academia and the nonprofit sector.
Johnson joins HRSA in the middle of the epic legal fight over its power to make and enforce 340B program policy governing drug manufacturers.
HRSA still has not filled its job opening for director of the Office of Pharmacy Affairs (OPA), its unit that manages the 340B program directly. “The recruitment process for the director of the Office of Pharmacy Affairs is ongoing and we have no additional announcement at this time,” HRSA said yesterday.
OPA has been without a permanent director since former director Krista Pedley, a U.S. assistant surgeon general and U.S. Public Health Service rear admiral, was promoted to be director of HRSA’s new Office of Special Health Initiatives (OSHI) in August. Michelle Herzog, Pedley’s long-time second-in-command, has been running OPA on an acting basis. HRSA reposted the OPA director job in November and revamped the prerequisites so that is no longer necessary for the director to have a pharmacy degree and be a licensed pharmacist.