(HealthDay)–The nomination of former U.S. Food and Drug Administration head Robert Califf, M.D., to again lead the agency now heads to the full Senate for a vote, after a Senate committee on Thursday voted 13-8 for approval.
Among those who voted against Califf’s nomination were Democrats who expressed concerns about his links to pharmaceutical companies, The New York Times reported.
A date has not been set for a Senate vote to confirm Califf’s nomination. During the last year of the Obama administration, Califf had been confirmed in a 89-to-4 Senate vote to become FDA commissioner, The Times reported.
If confirmed, Califf will assume control of an agency that was under fire during the pandemic because it handled decisions regarding vaccines, treatments and masks. The Times reported. It was criticized for slow approval of quick at-home tests. This led to shortages in tests as the omicron variant raged throughout the country. Consumer demand for testing for children and workers soared. Meanwhile, high-risk COVID-19 patients are facing severe shortages of treatments that can help battle omicron–even as the FDA remains the gatekeeper to therapies and diagnostics that could help.
The FDA faces other major challenges, including new e-cigarette regulations and accelerated drug approvals. This issue was triggered by Aduhelm, a controversial, expensive new drug for Alzheimer’s disease.
As a cardiologist, Califf led clinical trials at the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina for decades. He was recently the head of clinical strategy and policy for Verily, Google’s life sciences arm. During the hearing, he emphasized the value of existing data, much of it in patients’ electronic medical records, to help answer difficult questions about drugs and devices.