Stephen Hahn resigns as FDA commissioner, says he was ‘disgusted’ by Capitol Hill riots

Radiation oncologist Stephen Hahn, MD, resigned as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday, coinciding with the White House switchover in power.

He first took on the post in December 2019, sworn in just ahead of the COVID-19 storm that would define the following year. Hahn faced intense pressure from former President Donald Trump to quickly approve vaccines and other treatments. On Twitter Wednesday, he called serving as the 24th commissioner a “true honor.”

“As a nation, and as a public health agency, we faced some big challenges and turbulent times over the past year, most notably those stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote, touting accomplishments including approval of the first over-the-counter coronavirus test and the first two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. “To our FDA staff, thank you for your dedication and resilience—and for always keeping science as your North Star in everything you do. I will be cheering you on as you continue to carry out the mission of the FDA,” he added.

Hahn’s resignation was expected and is part of the regular departure of senior political appointees when a new administration takes office, the New York Times reported. Janet Woodcock, MD, long the leader of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Review, will step in as acting commissioner. President Joe Biden has not yet nominated a permanent replacement, but Woodcock will be in the running, the report noted.

In a lengthy interview with Bloomberg published Tuesday, Hahn said he had considered resigning after the District of Columbia riots on Jan. 6. But he opted to stay on through the administration’s final days to provide leadership during a “very critical time.”

“I was horrified and I was disgusted by what happened. We live in a democracy. There is no place for what we saw and those who are responsible for the actions that took place on the physical grounds of the Capitol should be held accountable,” he told the news outlet.

Before joining the FDA, Hahn served as chief medical executive of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and also taught at its school. He told Bloomberg he’s unsure what will come next after the Food and Drug Administration stint.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also resigned ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration while slamming the aforementioned protests earlier this month.

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