The last time Dr. Robert Califf was named FDA commissioner, the U.S. Senate quickly confirmed his nomination. Califf served as FDA Commissioner during 2016.
The White House has nominated Califf to again be FDA commissioner, but the Friday appointment was already showing signs that it won’t be as easy this time as last.
For one thing, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, lost no time coming out against a Califf homecoming at the FDA. The Senate is tied, and Manchin is known for preventing spending free for all.
He voiced his immediate opposition to President Biden’s nomination of Calif because of his ties to the pharmaceutical industry as the opioid crisis continues.
The powerful senator said that Califf’s nomination “makes no sense” amid the opioid epidemic still ravaging America and wreaking “havoc on families across this country with no end in sight.”
Califf, a cardiologist, was with Duke University in Durham, NC, for 30 years as a medical professor and researcher. He is a graduate of Duke’s School of Medicine.
His nomination was last approved on a unanimous voice vote of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. And the Senate confirmed his first stint as FDA commissioner, 89-4.
Biden has brought Califf, 70, back for another turn.
From the White House, Biden said: “Dr. Robert Califf is one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country and has the experience and expertise to lead the Food and Drug Administration during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic.”
After stepping down as FDA commissioner during Obama’s last year, Califf was hired in 2019 by Alphabet Inc., owner of Google. He reportedly worked for “Google Health” and Verily Life Sciences.
He has other industry ties likely to be subjects of scrutiny during the Senate confirmation process.
Janel Woodcock, the 72-year old acting FDA commissioner has been running the agency since Biden became President. Califf’s nomination means Woodcock can continue as acting commissioner beyond Nov. 15, which was her deadline for being an acting authority.
Not known is whether the president is any closer to naming someone as USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, the nation’s top food safety official. Biden has left the job to vacate since Mindy Brashears left office ahead of Beden’s inauguration.
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