Senate confirms FDA Chief

December 13, 2019

The U.S. Senate confirmed Stephen Hahn, MD, to head up the FDA replacing Scott Gottlieb, MD, who left the post in the spring.

Stephen Hahn, MD, is the new commissioner of the FDA after the U.S. Senate voted 72 to 18 to confirm him to that post December 12, according to a report from the New York Times.

Since May 2018 Hahn was the chief medical executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and beginning in 2015, he was the Gilbert H. Fletcher Memorial Distinguished Chair and Professor of Radiation Oncology at the center. He was nominated by President Donald J. Trump to head the agency November 1.

During his confirmation, Hahn, 59, was noncommittal when asked by senators whether he would work to ban flavored vaping products after the administration backed away from the ban Trump proposed in September as an effort to halt their growing use among teenagers. Allegedly, Trump dropped the proposed ban due to the possible political fallout such a move could cause, according to the Times.

Democrats and health advocates have backed the ban as a way to curtail the practice that has led to more than 40 deaths and more than 2,000 people being injured. Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill) met privately with Hahn to discuss the issue in November and announced his support for Hahn’s confirmation the day before the vote.

“Dr. Hahn may find himself in a compromised position soon, and I told him as much. If it comes to the point where the president has abandoned his effort against vaping, and the [vaping] industry is going to prevail, then I’m afraid Dr. Hahn will wear the collar for some of the things that follow,” Durbin said in a news release announcing his support.  “Dr. Hahn said to me he doesn't want to be known in history as the head of the FDA who saw this epidemic grow dramatically when it comes to vaping by young people. I’m going to give him my vote and I do it with the hope that he will have a persuasive voice with Sec. Azar and the administration to move in the right direction.”