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It's official: New FDA Commissioner Hahn wins Senate confirmation

12 Dec, 2019

The FDA has been plenty busy without an official commissioner since former head Scott Gottlieb stepped down earlier this year, but now it has a new chief to take on the job. 

Stephen Hahn, formerly chief medical officer of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, secured confirmation from the Senate Thursday in a 72-18 vote, according to reports. He takes over the agency's sprawling brief, which covers pharmaceuticals, food safety, medical devices and tobacco.

Much of the conversation during Hahn’s confirmation process centered on vaping, which the FDA governs under its tobacco division, but the nominee did face questions about biosimilars, drug pricing, shortages, opioids and more. He didn't offer much in the way of specifics but pledged to always follow science and data over politics. 

On pricing, Hahn said the American people "want action." An oncologist, Hahn said “rarely a day goes by” that drug pricing doesn’t affect one of his patients.  

It’s an “urgent” issue, and the “American people want us to act on this," he told lawmakers at a hearing. Hahn said he’s “very interested” in the ways the FDA can stimulate competition and lower costs. 

Hahn replaces Gottlieb, a popular FDA commissioner who stepped down earlier this year after nearly two years at the helm. As commissioner, Gottlieb prioritized the opioid crisis and implemented measures aimed at fighting high drug costs, among other initiatives; he since has joined the board of Pfizer.

But work at the agency didn’t stop between the two commissioners. Two acting commissioners kept things moving, and the agency has approved several new drugs in recent months.


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