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MD Anderson exec Stephen Hahn to be nominated FDA commissioner

US President Trump scouts well-known oncology expert to lead agency

FDA

US President Donald Trump has set his sights on Stephen Hahn (pictured below, left) to be the next FDA commissioner, according to an announcement from Health Secretary Alex Azar last week. 

Current acting FDA commissioner Ned Sharpless (pictured below, right) is set to return to his role as the director of the National Cancer Institute, after completing his tenure at the federal agency on 1 November.Stephen Hahn

During his time leading the FDA, Sharpless has driven progress on a number of core issues including lowering drug prices and tackling the epidemic of youth use of tobacco products. He also had staunch support from both previous FDA commissioners and a number of patient groups.

According to a statement from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Sharpless had to leave his post by law, due to The Federal Vacancies Reform Act that requires any person serving in an ‘acting’ capacity to hold the position for only 210 days.

Right on time, Azar announced Hahn will be nominated for the role by Trump, in a series of tweets last Friday.

“Under Dr. Sharpless’ leadership for the past seven Ned Sharpless months, FDA has forged ahead in its essential work of protecting the public health. Dr. Sharpless’ willingness to step into the role of acting commissioner, and to lead the team at FDA with a steady hand, ensured that the agency did not miss a beat in advancing its vital mission,” said Secretary Azar in a statement.

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

At MD Anderson, he is responsible for the day-to-day management of the institution, and overseeing all business, clinical and faculty matters. He is also specialist in lung cancer and sarcoma, and climbed up the centre’s professional ladder since joining in 2015.

During his time at MD Anderson, Hahn faced a number of challenges, including turning around serious financial losses the centre faced in 2016. He oversaw the largest layoffs in its history but ensured the cancer centre got back on its feet.

Before he can assume the role, Hahn must be confirmed by the Senate. If he does become the agency’s next leader, he will have his hands full with a number of issues including the ongoing opioid crisis, drug contaminations and the outbreak of an unknown lung illness thought to be caused by electronic vaping products.

Alex Azar tweet

Secretary Alex Azar announced the nomination in a series of tweets

According to The New York TimesHahn has donated to the Republican party in the past – although not to the Trump leadership campaign. He donated to candidates in both parties during earlier elections, including Republic presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the congressional campaign of Democrat John Murtha.

In the interim between Sharpless leaving the post and Hahn confirming he will take on the position, assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir will assume all duties and authorities of FDA commissioner.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

4th November 2019

From: Healthcare

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