Robert Califf’s FDA Nomination Gets Unanimous Yes from US Senate Committee

Robert Califf, MD, continued his smooth ride along the tortuous political path required of nominations for the post of FDA commissioner today. In scarcely 30 minutes, members of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) voted unanimously to confirm him for the post. Comments from members were short and, for the most part, sweet.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said he had “thoroughly” reviewed Califf’s record and believes it proves the former Duke Clinical Research Institute leader and founder is a “respected clinician and researcher.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who raised the specter of terrorism when highlighting the FDA commissioner’s role in overseeing food safety and security, said “Dr. Califf has the right stuff.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) observed that a “lot of work needs to be done,” particularly in the prevention of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, food safety, and protecting of children, but concluded that she believes Califf would be a strong and independent FDA commissioner.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has been one of the toughest critics of Califf’s nomination in the past was presumably on the campaign trail and did not participate in today’s vote. Sanders has previously raised concerns over Califf’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry and what Sanders sees as a lack of commitment toward lowering the cost of medications for Americans.

The only soft note of dissension during today’s hearing came from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has threatened to block Califf’s nomination over her concerns about genetically modified salmon—something she acknowledged she can’t do until the process moves out of the HELP Committee. She voted in favor of his nomination today but said she was disappointed that the FDA decision to approve the marketing of a genetically modified fish without mandatory labeling came just 2 days after she’d raised her concerns on this subject with Califf directly, while he was serving as FDA deputy commissioner.

Hinting that she may yet throw up a roadblock, Murkowski said she will continue to press her concerns and call for mandatory, rather than voluntary, labeling on genetically modified products.

Califf’s nomination now heads to a full Senate vote.

 


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