Stephen Hahn’s history in healthcare industry leaves open questions of ethics and priorities
WASHINGTON – President Trump is expected to announce the nomination of Stephen M. Hahn, an oncologist and chief medical executive at MD Anderson Cancer Center, to lead the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) by the end of the month. But Hahn’s connections to the healthcare industry raise serious questions for which he must answer to the American public. In response to the anticipated move, Restore Public Trust released the following statement:
“If Stephen Hahn wants Americans to trust him to lead the FDA, he must first answer some crucial questions about his history in the healthcare industry,” said Lizzy Price, director of Restore Public Trust. “At the heart of the matter is this: Can we trust Hahn to put Americans’ health ahead of the drug companies’ bottom lines? Would he work to make medications more affordable, or continue the Trump administration’s pattern of giving in to the interests of Big Pharma at the expense of Americans struggling to afford their medication? We implore Congress to give Hahn proper scrutiny and make sure the public has answers to these questions. Americans’ trust in the FDA depends on it.”
Here are three key questions Hahn must answer if and when he is nominated:
Question 1: Are you willing to support referential pricing as a means to reduce the astronomical cost of prescription drugs in this country?
The Trump administration has still failed to lower the sky-high cost of prescription drugs. As FDA director, Hahn would report to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, a former top executive at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, which hiked the drug prices astronomically while Azar was an executive. Would Hahn hold firm to his previous support for reference pricing, which has been called the drug industry’s “biggest nightmare,” in order to help sick Americans afford the medications they need? Or would he continue Azar and Trump’s pattern of giving in to Big Pharma’s financial interests?
Question 2: This past spring, your employer MD Anderson came under fire for dismissing ethnically Chinese researchers over academic espionage concerns. Can you explain what happened?
As Stat reported earlier this year, Hahn received blowback for his company’s decision to oust three ethnically Chinese sciences over concerns of academic espionage after some employees saw the move as “racially motivated.” As FDA head, it is crucial for Hahn to ensure that the decisions he makes are not based in bias or bigotry, and are solely in the best interest of the American public. Is Hahn prepared to make that promise to the Americans he’s been nominated to serve?
Question 3: In 2012, your employer MD Anderson was the recipient of a controversial cancer-drug development grant that had not undergone any scientific peer review and caused large scandal in the medical community. Given this history, how can you assure that you would be able to prevent something similar from happening on a larger scale?
After Hahn’s employer, MD Anderson, was awarded $18 million to develop new cancer drugs by the Cancer Prevention And Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the institute’s chief scientific officer and several reviewers resigned over concerns that the grant never went through scientific review and that it “dishonored” the peer review system. A scandal like this at the FDA would have the power to decimate Americans’ crucial trust in the nation’s drug safety watchdog, with potentially grave consequences. Can Hahn ensure that he will safeguard the FDA from a situation similar to that of his former employer?
Restore Public Trust will be tracking updates on the FDA nomination process to encourage our elected leaders to do their due diligence on Hahn before casting their votes on his nomination.