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Supplement trade associations react to new FDA commissioner Dr. Hahn

Dr. Stephen Hahn was the chief medical officer at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Including two interim commissioners, he is the fourth person to head the Agency in 2019.

Rick Polito

December 24, 2019

3 Min Read
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A new FDA commissioner, confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 12, has the dietary supplement industry peering into tea leaves for signs on what the agency will do regarding CBD and other matters, but first responses from trade associations were more careful than questioning.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, confirmed as new FDA commissioner on Dec. 12, 2019

And few would argue that supplements, CBD or not, are at the top of the to-do list for Dr. Stephen Hahn, previously the chief medical executive at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The new commissioner faces crises around vaping, opioids and prescription drug pricing along with other pressing matters while facing perhaps the most tumultuous election year in U.S. history.

Hahn’s predecessor, Scott Gottlieb, left the post in March and the Agency had been headed by two interim commissioners in nine months. Gottlieb had spoken of a “pathway” for CBD as a dietary ingredient, but the only definitive steps that have been taken were a series of warning letters in late November that staked questioned the safety of CBD.

Asked for response on Hahn’s confirmation, trade associations were largely careful and congratulatory.

  • Council for Responsible Nutrition President and CEO Steve Mister referenced CBD and other matters in his statement: “CRN recognizes the importance of having a confirmed FDA commissioner because the agency can drift during interim periods and important decisions are postponed. Dr. Hahn’s leadership will be critical to moving FDA forward, and CRN expects to maintain an open dialogue with him and his staff on the full range of issues CRN is working for its members. CRN looks forward to working with Commissioner Hahn on top industry priorities including CBD, mandatory product listing, third-party GMPs, certificates of free sale, and other issues.”

  • Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association was carefully congratulatory: "AHPA congratulates Dr. Hahn on his confirmation and looks forward to supporting FDA efforts to enforce dietary supplement laws and regulations as intended by Congress. The supplement industry looks forward to working with Dr. Hahn to further FDA’s goals of safety, product integrity, and informed consumer decision-making. We are optimistic the industry will continue to work effectively with FDA under Dr. Hahn's leadership."

  • At the Organic and Natural Health Association, CEO and Executive Director Karen Howard expressed curiosity about the dynamics Hahn will face: "The U.S. Senate has exercised its authority to approve a man with considerable medical experience and no government expertise as the next commissioner of the FDA. Oddly, in this highly antagonistic era of governing, he garnered bipartisan support with only 18 dissenting votes. Had he taken a firm stand on teenage vaping, he might have flown through unanimously. This is a man who clearly seeks to avoid the spotlight and controversy. In some ways, Congress is hungry to do the work they were elected to perform. That said, it’s business as usual at the FDA. Ergo, it is business as usual for the dietary supplement industry."

About the Author(s)

Rick Polito

Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

As Nutrition Business Journal's editor-in-chief, Rick Polito writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.

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