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WASHINGTON — Robert Califf escaped largely unscathed from a two-hour hearing Tuesday vetting him to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. He gushed about his love of high-quality data, skillfully navigated questions on hot-button topics like abortion and drug pricing, and even had personal anecdotes about Covid-19 testing and opioid prescribing at the ready.

His only stumble came when he clearly frustrated lawmakers with his responses to pointed questions about the FDA’s approach toward approving opioid drugs, including its general reluctance to crack down on long-term prescribing of opioids and its recent decisions to approve new high-dose opioids.


“This is stupid, people are dying because of it,” Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said. “We keep approving one after another.”

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