Lawmakers clear way for confirmation of Robert Califf as new FDA commissioner

On Monday, lawmakers cleared the way for confirming Robert Califf as the new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, despite objections from senators, who were criticizing his links with the pharmaceutical industry. Califf is a longtime cardiologist and Duke University researcher.

The Senate has overpoweringly supported a procedural motion to stop any legislator from hindering a vote on Califf’s nomination and to restrict debate over the decision to 30 hours. A final vote is expected to come by Tuesday. Many senators have held up the confirmation of Califf in the recent months.

According to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), the background of Califf, which includes funds that pharmaceutical companies provided him for a number of the research studies he oversaw at Duke University, would come up in his way of standing up to drug companies and searching for ordinary consumers.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski briefly held up nomination of Califf because she wanted the FDA to put in place labeling necessities for genetically engineered salmon.

However, the harshest criticism has come from Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who wanted to block Califf’s confirmation vote due to their frustration with what they have seen as the FDA’s lax approach to opioid painkillers in the middle of an epidemic of prescription-drug abuse.

Markey said at a news conference with Manchin that presently FDA is part of the opioid issue, when the country wants a solution from the agency.

The pair has spoken against the FDA’s recent promise to fix its opioid protocols, under which, the agency has pledged to make follow-up studies on painkiller use stronger and summon outside expert panels prior to considering new opioids lacking without ‘abuse-deterrent’ properties.

Manchin said that now, the FDA requires a champion committed to change the way the agency deals with opiates.