Stephen Hahn Hearing Set for Nov. 20

No red flags yet on nomination of MD Anderson doc for top job at the FDA
Peter Wehrwein

Stephen Hahn, MD, nominated to become the next FDA commissioner, has won the backing of the chair of the Senate health committee and is scheduled to appear before the committee on Nov. 20.

“As an oncologist, Dr. Hahn knows firsthand the importance of bringing new, lifesaving drugs and devices quickly through the regulatory process as well as the need for innovation for patients with debilitating and chronic pain,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander,  the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions, in a prepared statement.  

Hahn, 59, is a radiation oncologist and researcher and currently chief medical executive at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

No red flags have come up yet that would suggest confirmation difficulties for Hahn, although Democrats have said they want to thoroughly vet him.

The Pink Sheet noted that even if there are no objections to Hahn, senators may want to use his nomination as a forum to air their concerns about drug prices, regulation of vaping, and other hot button issues.

Politico noted that Hahn has not taken a lot of money from pharmaceutical or medical device companies, so questions about being too close to the industries that he is regulating may not come up.

According to the Washington Post, Hahn is a registered Republican and has contributed to GOP campaigns, including Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential run, and also to a few Democrats' campaigns.

The Post said Hahn is described by friends and colleagues as “an energetic consensus-builder with a disarming, folksy manner.” The newspaper also quoted Otis Brawley, a Johns Hopkins oncologist and former chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, as praising Hahn for his research expertise and his empathy toward patients. The Post also reported that Hahn is married and has four adult children, is an exercise enthusiast and avid football fan, especially of the San Francisco 49ers.

Politico’s sources also had plaudits for Hahn, describing him as a “quick study" and "very good problem solver" who would find it easy to get up to speed at FDA and would approach the agency from an apolitical perspective.

If Hahn is confirmed, he will be taking a significant pay cut, according to the Post. The newspaper said, citing Texas records, that Hahn's MD Anderson salary for the fiscal 2019 year was $933,600, and his total compensation was $1.3 million. The FDA commissioner has an annual salary of about $160,000.