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Senate HELP Committee Approves Hahn Nomination to Lead FDA

December 5, 2019

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Christa Wagner, Senior Legislative Analyst

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in a Dec. 3 executive session approved the nomination of University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Chief Medical Executive Stephen Hahn, MD, to be the next Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by a vote of 18-5. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has filed cloture on Dr. Hahn’s nomination, and a final Senate vote is expected the week of Dec. 9.

HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) urged the committee to advance Hahn’s nomination to a floor vote adding, “Dr. Hahn has extensive medical and research experience and is a proven leader in large health systems … Now it’s time for him to be confirmed because there is a lot the FDA needs to do—approve new life-saving drugs and devices, regulate tobacco and e-cigarettes, address the opioid crisis and ensure pain patients can receive the medications they need, and protect our nation’s food supply.”

Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), in voting against Dr. Hahn’s nomination, shared her concern from Dr. Hahn’s Nov. 20 confirmation hearing that, “Dr. Hahn refused to commit to implementing a strong policy to clear non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes that have not undergone FDA review from the market … Should Dr. Hahn be confirmed to lead the FDA, I’m going to be watching every day to make sure he lives up to his commitment to be guided by science and data.”

In a Nov. 27 letter to Senate HELP Committee leadership, AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, urged the Committee to act quickly to favorably report Dr. Hahn’s nomination to the full Senate. Dr. Skorton continued, “A permanent and skilled Commissioner is key to FDA’s ability to keep up with the rapid pace of scientific progress and public health threats. The AAMC believes that Dr. Hahn’s experience in research, patient care, and administration at institutions that are among the nation’s foremost venues for cancer treatment and research, as well as his public service as an officer in the US Public Health Service and at the National Cancer Institute, provide invaluable qualifications to lead the FDA.”

Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health, Brett Giroir, MD, is currently serving as acting commissioner. The previous FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, MD, stepped down in April 2019, and Norman “Ned” Sharpless, MD, Director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, served as acting commissioner from April until Nov. 1.

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