Dr. Ned Sharpless, the Director of the National Cancer Institute, has been tapped as the new Interim Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
FDA Commissioner Sharpless’ appointment follows the recent and unexpected resignation of FDA Commissioner and adversary of teen vaping, Scott Gottlieb.
Dr. Sharpless has been the Director of the National Cancer Institute since October 2017, and was previously a cancer researcher and hematologist-oncologist at the University of North Carolina.
In addition, Dr. Sharpless was one of the founders of a biotech firm, G-1 Therapeutics, specializing in cancer treatments; and HealthSpan Diagnostics, a developer of specialized blood tests.
Sharpless has been a vocal supporter of Gottlieb’s efforts to tighten regulations on tobacco, including new priorities to reduce the nictone in combustible cigarettes to non-addictive levels; and crack down on what has been called the “epidemic” of youth use of e-cigarettes, through efforts such as banning the sale of flavored vape juices, raising the age for vaping to 21, and reclassifying e-cigarettes in the same category as combustible cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.
Outgoing FDA chief Scott Gottlieb praised the appointment of FDA Commissioner Sharpless on Twitter:
“Ned is a friend to the FDA, a great public health champion, a dedicated physician, and will be warmly welcomed into his new role. FDA will benefit greatly from his leadership.”
Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services said in a statement,
“There will be no let-up in the agency’s focus, from ongoing efforts on drug approvals and combating the opioid crisis to modernizing food safety and addressing the rapid rise in youth use of e-cigarettes.”
While Gottlieb was adamant in the need to stem the popularity of e-cigarettes by underage users, he also saw e-cigarettes as an effective tool to help smokers quit, and was actively working to speed up the approval process for e-cigarettes as a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like the nicotine patch, or nicotine gum. Multiple research studies have found e-cigarettes to be the most effective method of quitting smoking, nearly doubling a smoker’s odds of quitting.
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