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Hamburg and Sharfstein to take top FDA spots?

Could President Obama's reported leading contenders to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) both end up on the job? Word is that former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg will get the top spot, with Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein serving as her deputy, according to the RPM Report, a healthcare trade publication.

Hamburg, 54, would oversee the agency's regulation of food safety and, if Congress authorizes the FDA to do so, tobacco. Sharfstein, 39, would take on drug, biotech and medical devices, according to the report, which was published Thursday. (Thanks to ScientificAmerican.com Twitter follower Mary Knudson, who tipped us off to the RPM story.) The two physicians have been rumored to be vying for the FDA post for more than a month.

Delegating those responsibilities would spare Sharfstein a Senate confirmation hearing, where he could face grilling by lawmakers, especially those who get big bucks from drug company lobbyists. Sharfstein is a former aide to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a frequent critic of the FDA and its cozy relationship with the pharma industry.

Sharfstein said he couldn't comment. Hamburg didn’t return an email about the news report.

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