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Likely Not in the Near Future

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, says he'll block a confirmation vote on Robert Califf to head the US Food and Drug Administration, Stat News reports.

President Barack Obama nominated Califf, a cardiologist and researcher at Duke University, to be the next FDA commissioner in September following Margaret Hamburg's departure in March.

While most members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions appear to support Califf's nomination, a few questioned his ties to industry. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted that while at Duke, Califf ran its $200 million clinical research institute, which is funded through a combination of public and private funds. Warren has since said that she's looked into Califf's record and has concluded he acted with integrity as an academic researcher.

But Sanders still has concerns, Stat News reports, especially regarding drug pricing. "Dr. Califf's extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry give me no reason to believe that he would make the FDA work for ordinary Americans, rather than just the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies," Sanders says.

Two other senators have placed holds on Califf's nomination. Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is blocking it because of his concerns regarding FDA policy on prescription opioids, while Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is putting a hold on it due to the agency's approval of genetically modified salmon and the voluntary policy for labeling modified fish.

It's thus "increasingly unlikely" that Califf's nomination will come to a vote soon, Stat News adds.