Five former FDA commissioners and dozens of patient groups have publicly asked President Donald Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar to nominate acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless as permanent commissioner.
The endorsements come as the 210-day window for Sharpless to serve in an acting capacity is drawing to a close on Nov. 1. Azar is considering other candidates for the position, including Brett Giroir, assistant HHS secretary for health (see “Clock Ticking”).
Four former commissioners — Robert Califf, Andrew von Eschenbach, Margaret Hamburg and Mark McClellan — signed a letter to Trump and Azar praising Sharpless. The letter thanked Trump and Azar for their “commitment to science, innovation, patients and the mission of the FDA,” and expressed hope that “you will continue this commitment by swiftly nominating Dr. Sharpless to become permanent FDA Commissioner.”
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who is bound by limits on his interactions with government officials, endorsed Sharpless in a tweet. “Ned Sharpless is an outstanding physician and scientist who is deeply committed to public health goals and the mission of FDA and I hope to see him permanently nominated into that role.”
The former commissioners’ letter noted the importance of having a Senate-confirmed leader at the agency. “Having a Presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed Commissioner will not only provide more secure governance for the agency at a time when there is so much to do, but will also create needed momentum and support for the thousands of public servants who serve to protect and promote the health of the American public.”
Fifty-six patient and medical groups, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), Friends of Cancer Research and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) signed a separate letter to Trump and Azar endorsing Sharpless. “We would like to thank your Administration’s dedication to patients and science as illustrated with the appointment of Dr. Norman E. Sharpless to serve as acting Commissioner of the FDA. We have sincere confidence that Dr. Sharpless is the best person to be nominated and confirmed as the next Commissioner.”