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Senate panel confirms Stephen Hahn as next FDA commissioner

Nomination will be advanced to the full Senate after initial confirmation

MD Anderson exec Stephen Hahn (pictured above) breezed through a senate committee vote yesterday, advancing him forward for the formidable FDA commissioner title. 

Hahn was approved for FDA commissioner in an 18-5 vote, after he was put forward for the job by President Donald Trump.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted in favour of advancing Hahn’s nomination to the full Senate.

If he is confirmed again, Hahn will go on to head the FDA and become a pivotal figure on a number of key issues the agency is currently facing.

One of these issues is the prevalence of vaping among adolescents – during his confirmation hearing last month, Hahn was questioned about how he would handle the epidemic, and whether he would potentially ban flavoured vape products.

He avoided this line of questioning, instead responding that he could not prejudge the policy and 'would let science guide his work’.

Interim acting FDA commissioner Ned Sharpless returned to his role as the director of the National Cancer Institute, after completing his tenure at the federal agency on 1 November.

Initially, a number of organisations endorsed Sharpless to take on the commissioner role permanently, including the Friends of Cancer Research, the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and scores of other groups.

He was also backed by previous FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who endorsed Sharpless as “an outstanding physician and scientist who is deeply committed to public health goals” who he hoped would be “permanently nominated into that role”.

However, following Health Secretary Alex Azar’s announcement that Hahn would be nominated for the role, a number of institutions voiced their support, including some who had originally favoured Sharpless.

This includes the Friends of Cancer research, as well as the National Organization for Rare Disorders and the National Patient Advocate Foundation.

Hahn is a renowned radiation oncology expert, and currently serves as chief medical executive of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

During his time at MD Anderson, he faced a number of challenges including turning around serious financial losses the centre faced in 2016. As part of the cost-saving efforts, he oversaw the largest layoffs in MD Anderson’s histroy, but also ensured the cancer centre got back on its feet.

Now that it looks likely that Hahn will go on to be confirmed by the full Senate, he will handle a number of significant issues the agency is currently experiencing.

This includes the ongoing opioid crisis and litigation, drug contaminations in major products and the outbreak of a lung illness thought to be caused by certain electronic vaping products.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

4th December 2019

From: Research

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