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FDA chief has been confirmed despite concerns over his pharmaceutical industry ties

Dr. Robert Califf testifies before a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension hearing on the nomination to be commissioner of Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 14, 2021.
Manuel Balce Ceneta
/
AP
Dr. Robert Califf testifies before a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension hearing on the nomination to be commissioner of Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 14, 2021.

Dr. Robert Califf will once again head the Food and Drug Administration, narrowly securing his position as the head of the consumer safety agency. The Senate confirmed Califf on Tuesday despite some concerns over his close ties to the pharmaceutical industry and GOP opposition to his stance on access to birth control.

The Senate voted to confirm Califf on a 50-46 vote, split largely along party lines.

Six Republicans — Sens. Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Patrick Toomey — voted alongside Democrats to confirm the Duke University cardiologist.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against Califf's confirmation, joining Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Maggie Hassan, Joe Manchin and Ed Markey.

The East Coast senators, all from states that have been particularly ravaged by the national opioid crisis, cited a need to lower prescription drug prices as well as the opioid epidemic.

Califf has received thousands of dollars in consulting fees from the pharmaceutical industry in recent years, and as part of his research at Duke worked closely alongside the industry.

Republicans who opposed Califf's confirmation expressed concerns over the FDA's 2016 call to ease restrictions on the abortion pill Mifeprex, decided during Califf's first tenure at the agency.

Califf had previously served as FDA commissioner in the last year of former President Barack Obama's administration. President Biden nominated Califf in November 2021. The agency has been without a permanent leader for the last 13 months.

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