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1019 Next FDA Commissioner
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Editor’s Commentary

Getting FDA back on track

Editor’s Commentary: Restoring confidence in FDA’s independence should be the next FDA commissioner’s top priority

Restoring confidence in FDA’s independence should be the next FDA Commissioner's top priority.

Oct 17, 2020 | 12:50 AM GMT

Regardless of the outcome of the elections, FDA is likely to have a new commissioner next year, one who will step into a leadership vacuum that is exhausting the agency’s supply of credibility and impairing its ability to promote public health.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden’s transition team has been collecting names of potential FDA commissioners, and those anticipating a second term for President Donald Trump are polishing resumes, but the best starting point for determining who should be the agency’s next leader is to consider what that person must accomplish.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn’s gyrations, from expressing fealty to Trump to angering him by releasing science-based guidelines for authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, have left him few allies in the White House, on Capitol Hill, or among FDA’s career staff. If Trump is reelected, Hahn is likely to be dismissed along with other HHS agency heads.

The COVID-19 experience ensures that the next FDA commissioner’s actions will be closely scrutinized by a public that understands the importance of the agency’s mission but not the scientific complexities and legal constraints that shape its operations.

The most important task in 2021 will be

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