Washington, D.C.—President Trump announced his intent to nominate Stephen Hahn, a cancer specialist and hospital administrator, to lead the FDA. According to Politico, this would be Dr. Hahn’s first public service post in 25 years, if the Senate confirms him.
Dr. Hahn was chairman of the radiation oncology department at the University of Pennsylvania medical school for nine years until 2015, when he joined MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, where he last year became Chief Medical Executive.
Politico adds that there was a statutory deadline for nominating a permanent commissioner; Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless could have only held the position through Friday if Trump didn’t nominate a new commissioner. The Trump administration will temporarily name HHS Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir as the interim FDA Chief as Dr. Hahn goes through the confirmation process.
UPDATED: Dr. Daniel Fabricant, President and CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA), shared his thoughts with WholeFoods on what he hopes to see for the future of the FDA. “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has neglected a series of its enforcement obligations over the past several years, meaning unsafe and untested dietary supplement ingredients are being imported to the U.S. and reaching store shelves,” Dr. Fabricant noted. “Adulterated ingredients that have not completed the New Dietary Ingredient notification process are entering our country at an alarming rate and it’s been roughly six years since the FDA provided dietary supplement import alerts to prevent this. This puts American consumers at risk and compliant U.S. supplement-makers at a terrible disadvantage.”
Additionally, Dr. Fabricant says, “Inaction to date in the CBD marketplace has created a scenario that may lead to the next vaping-like health crisis. Natural Products Association worked with Congressman Jerry McNerney of California who put forth language that was passed in the U.S. House to fund the FDA to establish a safe level of CBD consumption. That legislation currently sits with the U.S. Senate to adopt as well. With more than 1,500 CBD products on store shelves across the country and 1 in 7 Americans using CBD, it’s past time for consumers to have accurate information on CBD and it’s time for producers to be properly regulated. The FDA setting a safe level for CBD consumption will create an urgently-needed legal pathway for regulation of CBD products. It’s my hope that with Stephen Hahn as its next Commissioner, the FDA will take on these much needed actions to protect American consumers.”
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More background on Dr. Hahn: The New York Times noted that Dr. Hahn has donated to Republicans in the past, although he did not donate to the Trump campaign. While he hasn’t recently worked in a public service position, those who know him seem to think he has the personality for it: The Times cites Dr. Theodore DeWeese, Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, as saying “He has the ability to stand up, take responsibility, understand the problem and fix the problem so it won’t happen again, and help everybody through that.”
The Times also noted that Dr. Hahn, who stepped in to run M.D. Anderson in 2017, is credited with returning the M.D. Anderson cancer center to “stable footing” after a series of financial and ethical controversies.
The Times also reported that Dr. Hahn has “weathered his own set of controversies.” In 2009, he testified before a Congressional panel to explain why a doctor under his supervision had improperly implanted dozens of radiation seeds into patients at a veteran’s hospital in Philadelphia. In June 2019, the federal government cited M.D. Anderson for serious safety violations after a 23-year-old patient died after receiving a contaminated blood transfusion. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed the hospital under heightened monitoring. Dr. Hahn was overseeing the process of identifying and correcting the issues in question.
WholeFoods will be updating this story as it develops, and sharing insights from industry leaders.