Manchin opposes Biden FDA nominee, cites opioid epidemic failures: 'How many more Americans have to die?'

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West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday he will oppose President Biden’s top pick to head the Food and Drug Administration for his previous failure to address one of the nation’s biggest epidemics: opioid abuse.

Robert Califf, who served as the FDA commissioner during the last year of the Obama administration, was nominated by the president last month to again lead the agency.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., delivers remarks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 1, 2021.
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

“Why we would confirm someone whose actions failed to swiftly curb the tide of the opioid epidemic?” Manchin questioned. “During Dr. Califf’s previous tenure as FDA commissioner, drug-related overdoses went up. Five years later, they are up again, this time at a record number.”

The U.S. saw a record number of overdoses during the first year of the pandemic, with nearly 98,000 deaths reported over a 12-month period in April 2021 — the majority of which were attributed to opioid abuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Manchin’s home state of West Virginia saw one of the greatest spikes in overdoses, with more than 62% increase in deaths since April 2020. 

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

“More than 500,000 Americans have died since the FDA first approved Oxycontin in 1995,” Manchin said. “Furthermore, Dr. Califf has indicated he plans to keep Dr. Janet Woodcock, who has led the FDA and directly overseen the approval of numerous highly addictive drugs to market, as part of FDA leadership.”

“We need a leader who is ready for reform in pursuit of improving public health outcomes and Dr. Califf is not that candidate,” he added.

A full committee hearing on the nomination of Califf with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is set to begin Tuesday. But Manchin appears to have made up his mind already, which could spell trouble for Biden’s top pick.


Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks at a press conference outside his office on Capitol Hill on Oct. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. 
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“How many more Americans have to die before we see a culture change at the FDA?” Manchin asked.

Fox News could not immediately reach the White House for comment.  

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