BioPharma, Policy

Report: MD Anderson oncologist is under consideration for FDA post

Trump is reportedly considering Dr. Stephen Hahn to head the FDA. Others reportedly under consideration include acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless and HHS assistant secretary Brett Giroir.

A radiation oncologist and executive at one of the largest cancer centers in the country is among the contenders to lead the Food and Drug Administration, according to a news report.

Citing people familiar with the discussions, The Washington Post reported Thursday that Dr. Stephen Hahn, chief medical executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, had met with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to discuss his nomination as FDA commissioner. While Trump has not made a decision, Hahn is reportedly considered a strong candidate and chief rival of the agency’s current head, acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless, who could also end up taking the position.

By law, Trump has until Nov. 1 to decide on a new FDA commissioner to replace Scott Gottlieb, who resigned as commissioner in March, having served since 2017. Last week, it was reported that Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was considering Brett Giroir, a current assistant secretary for health at HHS.

However, Giroir’s tenure at HHS has been controversial, given his opposition to abortion and moves against fetal tissue research. Meanwhile, the Post reported Wednesday that former FDA commissioners and dozens of health organizations had sent letters to Trump urging him to appoint Sharpless to the position.

According to his profile on MD Anderson’s website, Hahn received his medical degree from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1984. Following an internship and residency in San Francisco, he did his medical oncology fellowship and radiation oncology residency at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Sharpless had previously served as director of the NCI, after serving as director of the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

His recent publications include studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and Clinical Lung Cancer, all dealing with non-small cell lung cancer, according to PubMed.

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According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Open Payments and ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs databases, Hahn disclosed payments from drug and device companies for travel and related expenses and also received research funding. However, payments for 2014, 2016 and 2017 – the years for which data were available – were generally far below the mean and median for the country and for radiation oncologists. Gottlieb’s industry relationships became an issue during his confirmation hearing, and his appointment to Pfizer’s board of directors in June drew criticism for what many saw as evidence of the “revolving door” between government and industry, including a call from Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren to resign.

Photo: FDA, Flickr (free of copyright protection)