Trump departs from tradition with likely new FDA commissioner

October 28, 2019

Health groups had urged Trump to make a different choice.

Even though several health groups urged President Donald Trump to appoint Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, MD, as FDA Commissioner, Trump is likely to nominate an executive from outside the agency.

Trump is expected to nominate Stephen Hahn, MD, chief medical executive at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Washington Post reported.

Related: Trump Considers Next FDA Commissioner

Hahn’s experience in the private sector differs from previous FDA commissioners, including Scott Gottlieb, MD, who previously served as FDA Commissioner before his most recent stint last year and earlier this year. Gottlieb and previous FDA officials Margaret Hamburg and Robert Califf also had public health policy experience before their time at FDA.

Gottlieb, Califf and Hamburg urged the Trump Administration to nominate Sharpless. In addition, several health organizations - including the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network-pushed for Sharpless to receive the top post in their letter to Trump and HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar.

Related:  HHS Names FDA Acting Chief as Gottlieb Resignation Sparks Worries

“During his brief time at FDA, [Sharpless] has continued to navigate and direct the agency in a manner that best benefits patients and is effectively executing the critical work of the agency. His presence has been a calming force, which has gained him the respect of the agency staff and those that support its mission,” the groups wrote. “We strongly urge the Administration to make Dr. Sharpless its nominee to become the permanent commissioner of the FDA. This nomination will be supported by the patient advocacy community as well as leading scientific and research institutions across the country.”

After working at the National Cancer Institute, Hahn served as chair of radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2014. He then moved to MD Anderson to become division head of radiation oncology, The Washington Post reported.

Hahn has conducted an array of clinical trials, including trials of treating prostate cancer with proton therapy and new ways to combine immunotherapy and radiation.

Read more: GAO: Generic Drug Approvals Too Slow