White House to Nominate New FDA Commissioner

The Trump administration is considering who it will nominate to be the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) next commissioner, and three top candidates have emerged: acting FDA chief Ned Sharpless, MD; Stephen Hahn, MD, chief medical executive of the MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Alexa Boer Kimball, MD, MPH, president and chief executive of the Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dozens of health groups and four previous FDA commissioners have endorsed Dr. Sharpless, urging the White House to nominate him as the agency’s permanent commissioner.

Prior to stepping in as acting commissioner when Scott Gottlieb resigned in March 2019, Dr. Sharpless was director of the National Cancer Institute and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

An administration official said that, while President Donald Trump has not made a final decision yet, Dr. Hahn is also a “strong candidate.” Dr. Hahn is a radiation oncologist and researcher who became chief operating officer of MD Anderson during a turbulent time that culminated in the resignation of the cancer center’s former president, Ronald DePinho, MD.

Heading the FDA has always been a difficult job, given the huge range of products the agency regulates and the intensity of emotion that often surrounds FDA regulatory policy, but the next commissioner will face special challenges around youth e-cigarette use, medical device safety, and more.

Sources: The Washington Post, September 4, 2019; The Washington Post, September 5, 2019.