Robert Califf Confirmed as FDA Commissioner

With a vote of 89-4, the Senate confirmed Robert Califf, MD, for the position of FDA commissioner.

President Obama has gotten one nomination through Congress during his last year as president: the Senate has confirmed Robert Califf, MD, as commissioner of the FDA.

The vote was 89-4 on Wednesday despite some Democrats delaying action to first protect the agency’s inaction on the growing opioid abuse epidemic in the US. Some, like presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, opposed Dr Califf’s nomination because of his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

“As an internationally recognized leader in his field, Dr Califf has proven himself capable of leading an agency that serves the public good,” Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said in a statement. “His understanding of the ways research encourages drug and device development will be essential to achieving a high standard of care and reducing costs for consumers while maintaining incentives for manufacturers to innovate.

Dr Califf was a medical researcher at Duke University for more than 30 years and 1 year ago he joined the FDA as deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco. After Margaret Hamburg, MD, stepped down, Stephen Ostroff, MD, the FDA’s chief scientist had filled the position of acting commissioner.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement that Dr Califf will build on the FDA’s record of protecting public health while encouraging innovation.

“I look forward to working with Dr Califf to ensure the FDA can carry out every aspect of its critical mission; from ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the medical products we use, to protecting the nation’s food supply and implementing its oversight of tobacco products, to furthering our efforts to combat opioid abuse,” she said. “Dr Califf's life in medicine and research has positively impacted the lives of many Americans, and as the new head of the FDA, he will be able to improve the lives of many more.”

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) commended the appointment of Dr Califf and Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FACP, FASCO, the chief medical officer of ASCO, said he expects the Dr Califf will positively impact cancer care in his position as head of the FDA.

"Dr Califf's considerable expertise and long experience in clinical and translational medicine makes him well-suited to lead the FDA's efforts to assure the safety and effectiveness of treatments and medical devices to ensure that the right treatment is delivered to the right person at the right time,” Dr Schilsky said in a statement.