On Tuesday, the Senate narrowly confirmed Dr. Robert Califf as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, over objections to his ties to the pharmaceutical industry and fears that he would not act aggressively enough to combat the opioid epidemic. After five Democrats voted against President Joe Biden’s nominee, the White House had to rely on six Republicans to get across the finish line. received 50 votes to 46 votes in the end.
Califf is a well-known cardiologist with a background in clinical research who served as FDA commissioner during President Barack Obama’s final year in office. Biden has stated that Califf will bring a steady hand to the FDA, which is facing critical decisions on Covid vaccines, therapeutics, and testing to combat the pandemic. The confirmation of Califf comes more than a year after Biden’s inauguration.
Six former FDA commissioners wrote to the Senate health committee in December, saying the drug regulator’s ability to perform its mandate had been hampered by the yearlong absence of a confirmed commissioner. They backed Califf as someone who had the experience to step in and lead in a crisis situation right away.