Senate confirms Stephen Hahn, MD, as new FDA commissioner

December 12, 2019

The Senate confirmed Stephen Hahn, MD, an oncologist and top official at MD Anderson Cancer Center, as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with a vote of 72 to 18. A top priority expressed by the new commissioner at his confirmation hearing will be to combat teen vaping, reports The Washington Post. Another hot button issue facing Hahn is the regulation of hemp-derived CBD.

Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, FDA has been experienced increased pressure from Congress and industry to find a regulatory pathway for hemp-derived CBD, which had proliferated throughout the marketplace in food, beverage, and supplement products in the absence of proper oversight. After the former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb stepped down in April, the former commissioner made a point of writing an op-ed suggesting a possible framework for regulating hemp-derived CBD. Recent actions taken by FDA regarding CBD have gotten mixed response from industry.

Over time, industry grew increasingly concerned about the absence of permanent leadership at the agency. For example, in a letter at the beginning of December to U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray, NPA President and CEO Daniel Fabricant, PhD asked for “the speedy approval of [Hahn’s] appointment so that we can begin working with his staff under his oversight to address much-needed regulation for cannabidiol (CBD) products and enforcement for adulterated dietary supplements.”

In response to Hahn's confirmation, Fabricant stated in a press release, "We look forward to working with Dr. Hahn and his staff to address much-needed regulation for cannabidiol (CBD) products and enforcement for adulterated dietary supplements. In addition to regulating CBD, action is needed in FDA’s new dietary ingredient (NDI) notification process. Adulterated ingredients that have not completed the NDI notification process are entering our country at an alarming rate and it’s been roughly six years since the FDA provided dietary supplement import alerts to prevent this. This puts American consumers at risk and compliant U.S. supplement makers at a terrible disadvantage. It is our hope that with Dr. Hahn as its new Commissioner, the FDA will take on these much-needed actions to protect American consumers.”