Rebuilding the FDA: Who Will Be Its Next Leader?

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As the country is making efforts to eradicate COVID-19 and is under a new president’s administration, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with rebuilding its reputation. This is increasingly important as more COVID-19 vaccines will be filing for approval in the first quarter of the year. The new FDA leadership would greatly help in assuring the concerns of the public regarding the vaccines and any other health protocols that will be in place.

So, who will be the next FDA commissioner? It is too early to say.

The choice for the new FDA commissioner will tell the public about the Biden administration's battle plan with regards to handling the global pandemic. The two leading candidates are Janet Woodcock, the current acting FDA commissioner, and Joshua Sharfstein, an academic currently working at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Janet Woodcock, the current acting FDA commissioner

As the current acting FDA commissioner, it is not shocking to see Woodcock supporters lobbying for her, even publishing a full-page ad in support of her FDA leadership bid.

Woodcock is seen as the institutional choice as she has been responsible for the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. This division is under scrutiny now more than ever, as more and more vaccines will be available to the American public.

However, Woodcock's track record is not a clean slate. There have been calls from various groups to President Biden, asking him not to appoint Woodcock into position. This is largely due to the issue of the opioid epidemic in which some people want Woodcock to be held responsible for the increase in opioid prescription and overdoses.

Joshua Sharfstein, the academics' choice

The other candidate is Joshua Sharfstein, who is backed by the country's prominent academics. He is also known for being the FDA deputy commissioner during the Obama administration.

During his time with the FDA, Sharfstein aimed to change how medical devices are being evaluated under the agency. Due to this, he is seen as a 'reformer' that could improve the current state of the FDA. Sharfstein also served as the Secretary of Health for Maryland in Baltimore. Currently, Sharfstein is working as the vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The Biden administration may choose to go for the institutional choice, Woodcock, or the reformer academic, Sharfstein. Either way, the appointee will be in charge of restoring the glory of the FDA in the eyes of the public. Both choices seem to have the qualifications for the job, as well as supporters that make valid claims in support of their candidate.

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