Senate confirms cardiologist as FDA head: 3 things to know

Robert Califf, MD, a cardiologist and clinical researcher from Durham, N.C.-based Duke University, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Feb. 24 as the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, according to a report from The New York Times.

Here are three things to know about Dr. Califf.

1. He joined the FDA as deputy commissioner last year from Duke University, where he had served as a professor of medicine, a leading pharmaceutical researcher and the vice chancellor for clinical and translational research.

2. His appointment was confirmed in a vote of 89 to 4, following weeks of opposition from some lawmakers who had blocked his nomination over what they said was the FDA's poor record on prescription painkillers, according to the report.

Mounting data has illuminated a national opioid and heroin addiction epidemic. Each year, more Americans die from drug overdoses than they do in car crashes. Data from the CDC show opioids were involved in 28,648 deaths in 2014. The agency also found a steep increase in heroin-involved deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

3. Dr. Califf will replace Stephen Ostroff, MD, who has served as acting commissioner since Margaret Hamburg, MD, stepped down in March 2015.

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