Senate Hearing Focus for FDA Chief Centers Away From Drug Pricing

President Trump’s choice to lead the FDA faced some questions, but not many, about drug pricing, according to various press reports about the Senate committee hearing Thursday regarding the nomination of Stephen Hahn, MD, FASTRO, the chief medical officer of MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The Center for Biosimilars Staff
November 21, 2019
President Trump’s choice to lead the FDA faced some questions, but not many, about drug pricing, according to various press reports about the Senate committee hearing Thursday regarding the nomination of Stephen Hahn, MD, FASTRO, the chief medical officer of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The issue of vaping, and whether he supports a ban on flavored products, was the primary focus; he demurred from specifics, saying he would defer to the White House, where a policy is under review.

In prepared testimony before the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP), Hahn said that, if confirmed, “I promise to be guided by the core values of integrity and transparency, and I promise to put the interests of the American people first.” He also stressed his scientific background and said he respected Congress.

Also on Wednesday, the Biosimilars Forum released a statement stressing how previous FDA commissioners—most notably Scott Gottlieb, MD—promoted biosimilars.

Past leaders “have recognized the urgent need for educating stakeholders and accelerating biosimilar uptake, given that patients and the US health care system at large could save up to $150 billion over the next decade with increased biosimilar use. It is critical that the FDA continue combating misinformation and anti-competitive practices surrounding biosimilars, as well as reforming regulatory processes to allow for increased competition in the market,” the forum said.

Eleven of the 25 approved biosimilars are currently on the market, noted the forum, which is supporting various pieces of legislation to promote biosimilars.

Stat News reported that Hahn did acknowledge the issue of high drug prices in response to questions from Senator Mike Braun, R-Indiana.

“Not a week goes by when I see a patient who doesn’t comment on the stress—‘financial toxicity’ is how people refer to it—of high prescription drug prices,” said Hahn, who said he supports “moving forward with action that makes sense.”

In addition, Hahn appeared noncommittal on the administration’s idea to allow certain drug imports from Canada. He did not commit to supporting individual importation proposal, but said he would be open to examining whether drug importation could be conducted safely.

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, the committee chairman, said a vote on the nomination is expected in early December.
 

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