The Senate has confirmed Dr. Stephen Hahn to be the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration with a vote of 72 to 18.
Hahn is a radiation oncology expert and the current chief medical executive of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where has been a professor of radiation oncology since January 2015.
Hahn follows former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who stepped down on April 5.
Dr. Norman E. Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, had served as acting commissioner from April until Nov. 1. Since Dr. Sharpless returned to his position at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of health, has been leading the FDA.
“Dr. Hahn can now get to work approving new life-saving 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,” Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander wrote in a Twitter post following the confirmation.
Hahn now faces pressure from senators to finalize a ban on sales of flavored vaping products. It has been three months since President Donald Trump said the FDA would put out “some very strong recommendations” regarding the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
“I’m not privy to those decision-making processes, but I very much agree and support that aggressive action needs to be taken to protect our children,” said Hahn.
A coalition of patient advocacy groups, including Friends of Cancer Research, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, sent a letter endorsing Hahn to Senate leaders.
“The United States is at a pivotal moment in terms of public health,” the group wrote. “A confirmed commissioner is critical to ensure FDA is best positioned to continue to carry out the agency’s important mission for millions of Americans.”