More than 40 health and advocacy organizations penned a letter to lawmakers expressing support for Stephen Hahn to be the new FDA commissioner and calling for a swift confirmation. The groups sent the letter to Senate leaders Monday (Dec. 2), a day ahead of the Senate health committee’s scheduled vote to advance Hahn’s nomination to the full Senate.
According to the organizations, FDA needs a confirmed commissioner in order to best carry out its goals and ensure the well-being of millions of Americans. Hahn is the right choice, they say, as he has experience managing research and understands patient needs.
Hahn also will maintain a balance of innovation and safety, the groups wrote in the letter, which was sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate health committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senate health committee ranking Democrat Patty Murray (WA).
“A confirmed Commissioner with the upmost scientific integrity and a direct understanding of patients’ needs is a necessity to fulfill that mission,” Ellen Sigal, chair and founder of Friends of Cancer Research, one of the organizations that signed on to the letter, said. “Dr. Hahn has proven he has a strong focus on advancing innovation, improving public health, and doing what is right by patients. We hope the Senate moves quickly on his confirmation.”
Other organizations that signed the letter in support of Hahn’s nomination include the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Organization for Rare Disorders and PXE International.
If the committee votes to advance Hahn’s nomination Tuesday (Dec. 3), the full Senate will then vote to confirm Hahn as FDA commissioner. Alexander has said he hopes to get Hahn’s confirmation through by the end of the year.
The health organizations also say they also hope Hahn is confirmed by the Senate before 2020.
Hahn, during his confirmation hearing on Nov. 20, was pressed by lawmakers on myriad issues, including whether he would move forward with a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Other issues that were brought up included opioid addiction, biologics patents, drug pricing, drug shortages and antibiotic resistance. He shied away from taking a hard stance on most of the issues, including whether he would support a flavored vaping ban, and instead generally said he would follow the research and science.
Hahn echoed those sentiments in response to Sen. Tina Smith’s (D-MN) written questions for the record. Smith asked about several similar issues, such as drug pricing, drug shortages and vaping. Hahn again said he would look at the data and scientific research when tackling the issues. He also promised to work closely with Congress.
Hahn dove a little deeper into Smith’s questions on cannabidiol (CBD), saying he’s concerned about companies making unsubstantiated claims that CBD can help cure Alzheimer’s and cancer. While Hahn said he recognizes potential therapeutic benefits, he added that, as commissioner, he’ll make sure FDA makes it a priority to investigate such claims.