Sanders says he will hold nomination hearing for NIH nominee in October

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says he plans to hold a confirmation hearing in October for Monica Bertagnolli, the Biden administration’s nominee to lead the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

The announcement Friday ends a months-long standoff with the administration over drug pricing. 

Sanders previously said he would oppose any health agency nominee until he gets a “robust plan” from the White House about lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

Sanders is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, so the administration isn’t able to confirm any health nominees without his support. NIH is currently the only health agency with a Senate-confirmable vacancy at the top.

Bertagnolli, a cancer surgeon who has led the National Cancer Institute since October, was nominated in May. The top post of NIH has been vacant since Francis Collins left the agency in December 2021. Lawrence Tabak has served as acting director ever since.

“In light of the recent actions taken by [the Department of Health and Human Services] HHS and a commitment I received from the White House to keep working to lower the price of prescription drugs, the HELP Committee will be holding a hearing on the nomination of Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to be the Director of the National Institutes of Health in October,” Sanders said in a statement.

“I look forward to meeting with Dr. Bertagnolli to discuss what she is prepared to do at the NIH to substantially lower the outrageous price of prescription drugs in America,” he added.

Sanders specifically cited an HHS announcement on Friday that the agency had reworked a contract with drug company Regeneron for next-generation monoclonal antibodies to fight COVID-19. 

According to HHS, the new agreement includes a clause that if a Regeneron brings a new product to market for which the federal government invests an undisclosed amount, its list price in the United States will be equal to or less than its retail price in comparable markets globally.

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