Senate Dems: Hiring freeze could stall 21st Century Cures Act

Eight democrats on the Senate health committee are urging President Donald Trump's administration to provide answers for how the federal hiring freeze will affect the Food and Drug Administration, reports STAT.

Here are four things to know.

1. While the hiring freeze bars any federal agencies from filling current open positions, it does allow exemptions for positions required to meet national security and public safety responsibilities. It is unclear whether this exception applies to the FDA, according to the report.

2. Eight Democratic senators — including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Washington state Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions — on Monday sent a letter to the FDA's Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, MD.

3. In the letter, the Senators warned that a hiring freeze would stall implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act, reports STAT. The law, passed with bipartisan support, allocates $500 million for medical research and instructs the FDA to approve drugs and devices at a quicker pace. A portion of the funds are also intended to hire staff to review drugs and devices. The Senators worry this money won't be used as intended under the ban.

4. "A hiring freeze at the FDA would conflict with and do significant damage to these bipartisan efforts to fill vacant positions and expand the scientific and technical workforce needed for a robust review of drugs and medical devices," the Senators wrote in the letter. "Patients and their families can't freeze the progress of a disease while the FDA waits to fill critical positions."

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