On January 8th, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) held the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate Tom Daschle.
After a warm welcome by Senator Kennedy, Senator Enzi asked Daschle whether it makes sense for FDA to regulate tobacco and whether it would legitimize what is inherently an unhealthy product. Daschle said it is important to discourage tobacco use in every way we can and that anything FDA did would be to discourage tobacco use.
Senator Dodd emphasized the importance of quickly appointing a new FDA Commissioner so that the current problems at the agency can be addressed. Daschle said that the transition team was moving quickly to name heads of FDA, NIH, NCI, CDC in the next couple of weeks.
Senator Mikulski stressed that FDA has become too political, and asked Daschle how to bring science back to the agency. Senator Daschle responded that he will push to reinstate science-driven work and allow scientists the autonomy and resources to do their jobs and stressed that improving drug safety and efficacy and building a framework for “prevention compliance” is paramount, also saying that health IT would be a key part of this effort.
Senator Kennedy asked about reimportation of FDA approved drugs as a means of bringing down costs. Daschle said that a strong policy is needed to curb costs.