11.20.19

Senator Murray Asks FDA Nominee to Commit to Putting Families, Data, and Science Ahead of Politics, Ideology, and Corporate Profits

In a confirmation hearing earlier today, Senator Murray demanded Dr. Hahn, President Trump’s nominee to lead the FDA, commit to putting data, science, and families’ health first

 

Senator Murray expressed concerns regarding Dr. Hahn’s lack of experience or expertise to lead the agency, particularly in light of President Trump’s track record of troubling nominees

 

Murray pressed Dr. Hahn to commit to banning non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes that have not undergone FDA review following reports President Trump is backing away from this urgent policy that he promised over two months ago

 

Murray: “We need an FDA commissioner who will unquestionably put data, science, and families’ best interests, ahead of ideology, politics, or companies’ bottom lines.”

 

***Watch Senator Murray’s opening statement HERE***

 

Washington D.C.—Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, pressed President Trump’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Stephen Hahn, on his commitment to putting science, data, and families’ health ahead of ideology, politics, and companies’ profits and voiced her concerns regarding whether he had adequate experience or expertise to lead a regulatory agency as complex and important as the FDA.

 

Senator Murray highlighted the importance of upholding the FDA’s gold standard for the safety and effectiveness of our medical products as well as ensuring the food supply is safe and healthy. She also pressed Dr. Hahn to commit to clearing unauthorized flavored e-cigarette products from the market by moving forward with a policy President Trump promised over two months ago to address the youth vaping epidemic, but which he reportedly backed away from after facing pressure from the vaping industry.

 

Key excerpts of the Senator’s remarks below.

 

“People across the country are counting on us to take vetting seriously—especially since President Trump won’t. Given what I’ve seen so far, I have reservations regarding Dr. Hahn’s qualifications to lead the Food and Drug Administration.”

 

“And now, over two months after President Trump promised strong action, he reportedly plans to back away from steps to clear unauthorized flavored e-cigarettes from the market. He has shown he is more swayed by the tobacco industry—and by politics—than by children’s health. We need an FDA Commissioner who will push back so children’s health comes first.”

 

“We need an FDA commissioner who will unquestionably put data, science, and families’ best interests, ahead of ideology, politics, or companies’ bottom lines.”

 

“Dr. Hahn, I’m going to be listening very closely to your testimony today, and asking you about some of the issues I think are particularly important during questioning. And I hope all of my colleagues will continue to work with me to make sure we thoroughly vet your nomination. Because this role is simply too important for us to do anything less.”

 

Full text of the Senator’s remarks below and video HERE.

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you Dr. Hahn for joining us today. I also want to welcome your wife and family here today. And I want to welcome our colleague, Senator Cornyn, and thank him for introducing you to the committee.

 

“Each year, twenty cents of every dollar Americans spend goes to products the Food and Drug Administration regulates. Every day, people put the wellbeing of themselves, their families, even their pets—in the FDA’s hands.

 

“When we sit down for a meal—we count on the FDA’s efforts to ensure the safety of 80 percent of our food supply, and provide us with the information we need to make healthy choices.

 

“When we get our prescriptions filled, or turn to medical devices to stay healthy—we count on the FDA’s work to uphold the gold standard of safety and effectiveness.

 

“We don’t have to look hard for reminders of just how enormous the FDA’s responsibility is.

 

“A few years ago, more than 30 patients at a hospital in Seattle were infected with a superbug by contaminated medical devices—over a third of them died. The FDA eventually recalled the devices after an investigation by my staff found outbreaks linked to the devices worldwide.

 

“Over the last two years, several states, including Washington state, have faced E. coli outbreaks from romaine lettuce, resulting in over 230 illnesses, and five deaths.

 

“This year, the FDA announced that millions of patients were exposed to blood pressure and heartburn medicines contaminated with carcinogens.

 

“And across the country, FDA’s failure to meaningfully regulate vaping products has allowed youth tobacco use to skyrocket—driven largely by flavored e-cigarette products.

 

“We need to make sure the FDA has strong, experienced leadership who will uphold the agency’s mission to protect public health.

 

Which is why this hearing is so important, because President Trump has an incredibly poor track record when it comes to nominations.

 

“From his cabinet, to the courts, to critical government agencies, he has repeatedly put forward nominees with alarming ethical problems and conflicts of interest, nominees without any relevant experience or qualifications, and nominees with long track records of putting ideology or partisanship, ahead of science, data, and families’ best interests.

 

“People across the country are counting on us to take vetting seriously—especially since President Trump won’t.

 

“Given what I’ve seen so far, I have reservations regarding Dr. Hahn’s qualifications to lead the Food and Drug Administration.

 

“Dr. Hahn has almost no government experience, almost no public record on the policy issues related to the FDA, and no experience leading an organization anywhere near as complex as the FDA.

 

“I want to be clear about what I will be looking for from Dr. Hahn today.

 

“First, and foremost, I will be looking at his commitment to putting science and data ahead of ideology.

 

“This is fundamental to the FDA’s work and when it doesn’t happen, people are put in harm’s way. People are unable to get care they need.

 

“For example, emergency contraception, known as Plan B, is now available to people all over the country. But when the FDA was considering whether to make Plan B more widely available, I had to fight hard to make sure science and data would ultimately win out over ideology and political pressure, so women across the country could finally get Plan B over the counter.

 

“And getting these priorities right is perhaps more important than ever given how much President Trump has let ideology drive policy decisions.

 

“And putting families’ needs first also means quickly following through on strong regulation of e-cigarettes.

 

“Right now, we are in the middle of a public health crisis. Millions of children are becoming addicted to tobacco products. The Trump Administration’s 2017 decision to delay oversight of e-cigarette products was an absolute disaster. Instead of taking strong action to protect children’s health, the FDA has instead allowed youth e-cigarette use to more than double among high school students, and more than triple among middle school students—in just the last two years.

 

“And now, over two months after President Trump promised strong action, he reportedly plans to back away from steps to clear unauthorized flavored e-cigarettes from the market. 

 

“He has shown he is more swayed by the tobacco industry—and by politics—than by children’s health.

 

“We need an FDA Commissioner who will push back so children’s health comes first. Who will finally clear the market of all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol—nationally, instead of offering more delays or half steps. And who will take strong, decisive action to protect kids from combustible tobacco products as well.

 

“I will also be looking at Dr. Hahn’s commitment to putting families’ needs ahead of companies’ profits. Because the FDA absolutely must prioritize making sure drugs and devices are safe and effective. 

And it should also be doing whatever it can to make sure they are accessible and affordable too.

 

“For example, the FDA should do everything it can to facilitate the development and approval of biosimilar insulin—a lifesaving drug that many patients struggle to afford—including ensuring a smooth transition of insulin products to the biologics pathway in March 2020. This is an important step to help cheaper follow-on versions come to market.

 

“Finally, I’ll be looking at Dr. Hahn’s commitment to continue upholding the FDA’s gold standard for safety and effectiveness in drugs and medical devices.

 

“I’m alarmed by changes the Trump Administration has proposed to FDA’s medical device review program including, a proposal to pre-certify software developers, and a decision to apparently break a commitment it made to me to limit a conditional approval pathway to certain animal drugs—by expanding it to human medical products as well.

 

“I’m concerned these proposals are not consistent with the FDA’s gold standard and may compromise patient safety—and I expect Dr. Hahn to revisit them if confirmed.

 

“We need an FDA commissioner who will unquestionably put data, science, and families’ best interests, ahead of ideology, politics, or companies’ bottom lines.

 

“Who will uphold the gold standard that makes sure drugs and medical devices are safe and effective.

 

“And who has the experience necessary to lead this massive agency—and its over 17,000 employees—in tackling a wide range of challenges, like the ongoing opioid epidemic, drug shortages, the increasing risk of anti-microbial resistance, and much more.

 

“Dr. Hahn, I’m going to be listening very closely to your testimony today, and asking you about some of the issues I think are particularly important during questioning. And I hope all of my colleagues will continue to work with me to make sure we thoroughly vet your nomination. Because this role is simply too important for us to do anything less.

 

“Thank you.”

 

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