6 former FDA commissioners push Biden to nominate a permanent chief

WASHINGTON — Six former FDA commissioners are urging President Biden to quickly nominate an FDA commissioner.

The FDA, which plays a central role in the coronavirus pandemic, has been without a permanent commissioner since January and there’s no telling when that will change. Biden is already on track to nominate an FDA commissioner later in his tenure as president than his two most immediate predecessors.

In the new letter, signed by a bipartisan cadre of former FDA commissioners, including Scott Gottlieb, Robert Califf, Mark McClellan, Margaret Hamburg, Jane Henney, and Andrew von Eschenbach, the commissioners emphasize the central role that the FDA will continue to play in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and the need to have a confirmed commissioner to guide that work.

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“We urge you to prioritize securing its leadership team, including through seeking the formal nomination and confirmation of an FDA Commissioner. The agency’s experienced staff and its science-based regulatory processes will play a critical role in helping the nation confront the evolving pandemic,” the letter states.

The letter does not explicitly endorse a candidate for commissioner, though it praises Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s acting commissioner and a candidate for the permanent commissioner post.

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“Across Democratic and Republican administrations, we have worked closely with Dr. Woodcock across a range of critical issues. Dr. Woodcock is a highly effective advocate for advancing the FDA’s mission — a role she has continued from her first day as Acting Commissioner,” the letter continues.

Woodcock, a 36-year veteran of the agency and the director of its largest center, has already received endorsements from a large swath of advocacy organizations and some of the nation’s top cancer doctors. However, there are other advocacy organizations and a group of Democratic lawmakers that have opposed her nomination due to her role in the opioid crisis.

Source: STAT