A group of former FDA commissioners and a coterie of health groups are backing acting FDA commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless over other names said to be in consideration for the job.
Sharpless, who led the National Cancer Institute until taking on the acting commissioner role in March, succeeded Dr. Scott Gottlieb in April. By June rumors were swirling that at least two others were in the running with Sharpless: Dr. Alexa Boer Kimball, a Harvard dermatology professor and president & CEO of the Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and a then-unnamed physician at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal identified that candidate as Dr. Stephen Hahn, the cancer center’s CMO. And U.S. Health & Human Services Dept. secretary Alex Azar may be backing one of his lieutenants, Brett Giroir, according to the Washington Post. Giroir was behind controversial Trump administration anti-abortion policies and restrictions on federal funding for fetal-tissue research, the newspaper reported.
Backers of Sharpless, whose tenure as acting commish is slated to expire in early November, sent a pair of letters this week to the president and Azar detailing their support. One came from a quartet of former FDA commissioners: Drs. Robert Califf and Margaret Hamburg, who served under the Obama administration, and Drs. Andrew von Eschenbach and Mark McClellan, commissioners during the George W. Bush administration.
And patient advocacy and anti-disease groups including The American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, the National Brain Tumor Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Friends of Cancer Research were all signatories on the other of the Sept. 3 missives, according to the paper.
“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,” Friends of Cancer Research chairwoman Ellen Sigal said, the Post reported.
Critics of Sharpless from the right flag his past support of Democratic candidates including Obama, while Democrats including Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) cite him for a too-lax approach to curbing youth vaping.