Just a few days after a report surfaced noting that HHS Secretary Alex Azar was pushing for controversial secretary for health Brett Giroir to take the helm at the FDA from acting chief Norman “Ned” Sharpless, a new report has surfaced noting some high-profile support gathering in Sharpless’ corner.
This time the messenger was The Washington Post, which may not sit well with a president who has repeatedly lashed the newspaper for what he feels is an anti-Trumpian stance.
The Post story details considerable enthusiasm for Sharpless by the influential Friends of Cancer Research, which signed off alongside dozens of groups including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Ellen Sigal, the high profile chair of the nonprofit, urged the administration to give Sharpless the position permanently, noting that “we need to have a strong leader like Ned who has treated patients, run clinical trials and advanced science with every position he has held.”
Alongside that missive, four previous FDA chiefs — Mark McClellan, Andrew von Eschenbach, Robert Califf and Margaret Hamburg — also voiced their support for Sharpless. It’s a bipartisan crowd. Two were appointed by Republican presidents and two were named by Democrats.
Missing in action — on the letter in any case —is Scott Gottlieb, who shocked just about everyone in the industry with an early exit from the agency. Gottlieb reportedly did not sign off with the other ex-chiefs, citing concerns about rules limiting his contact with federal officials. But he took to Twitter today to voice his own unequivocal backing.
The Post report also notes that Sharpless is on record as contributing to Democrats, including both campaigns run by Barack Obama. In the Trump White House, where loyalty earns big premiums for support, that may be particularly galling.
Something has to happen soon, as the interim spot can only run until November. Until then, look for more twists and turns as everyone waits to see how this latest administration drama plays out. If history is any guide, more names could surface before it’s all said and done.