Mixed reaction from industry on new FDA commissioner

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Dr. Robert Califf, President Obama’s nominee, has been confirmed to be the new FDA commissioner, and several supplement industry trade associations are trying to schedule a meeting with him as soon as possible.

Last month, Natural Products Association (NPA) Executive Director Daniel Fabricant revealed​ that his association had some “concerns about previous statements made by Dr. Califf in which he suggested that dietary supplements should be regulated the same way as pharmaceutical products.”

Now that Dr. Califf has been confirmed by the senate, the NPA announced in a press release that it sent a letter to the new commissioner, where NPA “congratulated Dr. Califf on his confirmation by the U.S. Senate and outlined its priorities for the new commissioner.”

Fighting “unscrupulous” and “egregious” companies

In its letter, the NPA asked how Dr. Califf will “use all of the legal tools at his disposal to enforce the laws and regulations related to the supplement industry,”​ among them a collaboration with the Department of Justice to “take up misdemeanour cases to deter unscrupulous companies selling adulterated or mislabelled supplements.”

Similarly, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) also sent a letter to encourage the Commissioner to “continue the agency’s recent enforcement actions taken in conjunction with the Department of Justice to help rid the marketplace of the most egregious companies defaming our industry and posing the highest risk to consumers,” ​wrote CRN President Steve Mister.

CRN expressed that, “Based on his confirmation hearing, we feel confident that Dr. Califf will be fully committed to enforcing the laws and regulations for our industry that help protect consumers— As our industry continues to grow and evolve, we look forward to having a strong leader in place and working with Dr. Califf and his team on public health issues.”​ 

A similar rosy outlook is shared by the United Natural Products Alliance, whose president, Loren Israelsen, told Nutra-Ingredients-USA that the association has been "encouraged by recent FDA statements in support of the positive steps taken by companies and industry to provide Americans high quality products while ensuring consumer safety,"​ and that the association shares "Sen. Hatch's hope that Dr. Califf will, working with the newly elevated FDA Office of Dietary Supplement Programs, use the substantial array of authority the agency has under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act to protect and preserve consumer access to safe and beneficial dietary supplements."

Confirmation surprises

Dr. Califf’s background is in cardiology. He became deputy commissioner of the FDA’s Office of Medical Products and Tobacco since January 2015. President Barack Obama nominated him to be the next Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in September 2015.

The New York Times reported​ that the confirmation process “had many surprises.”​ Though nominated by President Obama, a Democrat, Dr. Califf’s strongest support during hearings before the committee seemed to be among Republicans. He “encountered his fiercest opposition from Democrats,”​ the article said.

At the moment, we have reached out to other trade associations in the supplement industry and we are waiting for responses.

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