WASHINGTON — The White House is considering nominating Dr. Robert M. Califf, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, to once again lead the agency, according to five people familiar with the search for a candidate.
The F.D.A. has been without a permanent chief since President Biden took office, leading to frequent criticism from public health experts who have said the agency has lacked clear direction during an intense phase of the pandemic, while it has faced a crush of reviews of coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.
The people familiar with the search process said that no final decision had been made. The acting F.D.A. commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, a longtime drug regulator, is nearing the end of the term that acting officials are allowed to serve.
Dr. Califf declined to comment. News of his possible nomination was first reported by The Washington Post.
Dr. Califf, a cardiologist who teaches at the Duke University School of Medicine, served only briefly as F.D.A. commissioner, at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term. He was the agency’s deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco before leading it from February 2016 to January 2017.
He was confirmed by the Senate as commissioner in February 2016 in a vote of 89 to 4, after some lawmakers opposed his nomination over what they said was the agency’s poor record on prescription painkillers. His nomination faced its fiercest pushback from Democrats.
Katie Rogers, Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Thomas contributed reporting.