In Case You Missed It, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) is vowing to lead opposition to President Biden’s potential nominee for commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Cortez Masto is fervently opposed to acting commissioner Janet Woodcock because of her history overseeing the approval of powerful and addictive opioid drugs.
“We cannot have an FDA administrator who oversaw the approval of dangerous drugs without sufficient consideration of the role they plan in the ongoing addiction crisis in Nevada and across the country,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I am very concerned about Janet Woodcock’s record. As Nevada’s Attorney General, I stood with a bipartisan coalition of AG’s across the country to sound the alarm on the Zohydro case, and I am prepared to work with my colleagues to ensure that the next director is a candidate who will prioritize the health and safety of Nevadans, rather than simply rubber stamping drugs without concern for their far reaching effects.”
As Nevada’s Attorney General, Cortez Masto helped lead opposition to these dangerous drugs, joining colleagues across the U.S. in urging the FDA to reconsider its approval of Zohydro ER. Unfortunately, Cortez Masto’s warnings were not taken into account when the FDA first approved Zohydro, which is why she is determined to stop Woodcock from taking over the helm of the agency.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said Thursday she is prepared to lead opposition to a nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration over her role in approving addictive painkillers that led to an opioid epidemic in Nevada and other states.
President Joe Biden tapped Janet Woodcock as acting commissioner of the FDA in January, following her work over the past year to develop COVID-19 vaccines in record time during the pandemic. She is seen as a potential commissioner nominee.
But her role as head of the agency’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research nearly a decade ago, as well as decisions to allow sales of addictive medicines, have prompted lawmakers from states suffering from the epidemic to voice their opposition.
“We cannot have an FDA administrator who oversaw the approval of dangerous drugs without sufficient consideration of the role they play in the ongoing addiction crisis in Nevada and across the country,” Cortez Masto said in a statement to the Review-Journal.
“I am very concerned about Janet Woodcock’s record,” said Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
Biden has not settled publicly on a nominee. A White House official, speaking on background, said that “in the midst of a pandemic, the choice of FDA commissioner is critically important.”
“We take seriously our obligation to find a candidate with strong technical, management, and communications experience,” the White House official told the Review-Journal. “In the meantime, we are grateful to have strong career leadership in place.”
Fighting addictive drugs
As Nevada attorney general, Cortez Masto signed on to a 2013 letter with colleagues from other states urging the FDA to reconsider approval of Zohydro ER, a drug that was reportedly 10 times stronger than hydrocodone products.
The letter said the drug’s approval came without clear guidance on how it should be prescribed, and that it could be over-prescribed by doctors and abused by patients, resulting in addiction and death.
In that 2013 letter, Cortez Masto said “I am concerned that without any deterrent properties Nevada may have more instances of prescription drug abuse.”
Cortez Masto is urging the president to nominate another candidate to head the FDA.
“I’m prepared to work with my colleagues to ensure the next director is a candidate who will prioritize the health and safety of Nevadans, rather than simply rubber stamping drugs without concern for their far-reaching effects,’’ Cortez Masto said.
The Nevada senator is not alone in voicing concern over the potential nomination of Woodcook.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, also is concerned because of the FDA’s role in allowing OxyContin sales and overprescription 30 years ago. Appalachia is considered ground zero for the prescription narcotics epidemic.
In addition, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., have urged the administration to select someone else.
“The FDA has played a critical role in this overdose epidemic overseeing the approval of prescription opioids through its Center for Drug Evaluation and Research,” the senators said in a letter to the president and released by Manchin.
Since 1999, more than 450,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses, Manchin noted.