The Senate voted 72-18 Thursday to confirm oncologist Stephen Hahn as the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
The vote came nine days after the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 15-3 to send his nomination to the full Senate. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee called Hahn, who was the chief medical executive at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, “the right leader for the FDA at this critical time” Thursday.
“Dr. Hahn can now get to work approving new lifesaving drugs and devices, regulating tobacco and e-cigarettes, addressing the opioid crisis, ensuring pain patients can receive the medications they need and protecting our nation’s food supply,” Alexander said.
At his confirmation hearing Nov. 20, Hahn offered few clues on how he would make decisions on hot-button issues such as the regulation of e-cigarettes, which caused HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray of Washington to vote against his confirmation.
But Hahn said, “Data, science and the law will guide decisions I would make if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as Commissioner of Food and Drugs.”
The hearing also offered little insight into how Hahn might deal with issues important to the food and agricultural industries, though he seemed receptive to comments from Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who brought up the matter of plant-based milk products.
Baldwin said there are “many imitation products that get away with using dairy terms without meeting Standards of Identity” and asked him how he planned to enforce the SOI’s.
“I am in favor of clear, transparent, understandable labels,” Hahn said.
He also committed to working on regulations for hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) after Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said “hemp is the latest thing with regards to farmers, ranchers, and growers.”
Despite "a significant proportion of Americans" who believe FDA has concluded CBD is safe, "There are unanswered questions that need to be filled in by data,” Hahn said.
Hahn said there are “signals that CBD can be an effective medical product,” but that “we have to have a clear and transparent framework for assessing” it.
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