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Former FDA Commissioner: U.S. Can Still ‘Catch Up’ On Monkeypox


Scott Gottlieb, the previous commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said the U.S. can still “catch up” on its effort to contain the growing outbreak of monkeypox, but warned officials needed to dramatically ramp up testing if the country hopes to maintain the virus from becoming an endemic threat.

Gottlieb made the remarks on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday as cases of the disease proceed to spread across the country. The Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday, and there are actually greater than 7,500 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the USA, essentially the most of any nation.

“I feel there’s a possible to get this back within the box, however it’s going to be very difficult at this point,” Gottlieb said Sunday. “We’re continuing to search for cases in the neighborhood of men who’ve sex with men. It’s primarily spreading in that community. But there’s absolute confidence that it’s spread outside that community at this point. And I feel we’d like to start out searching for cases more broadly.”

Gottlieb went on to say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been reluctant to broaden testing recommendations to incorporate patients that present with other ailments similar to atypical cases of shingles or herpes. The agency, he said, has been testing about 8,000 people every week for monkeypox out of a possible capability of 80,000 tests in that point period.

There continues to be the potential to get monkeypox “back within the box,” fmr. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says. But Gottlieb adds, the U.S. must “substantially” boost testing.

“If we’re going to contain this…we’d like to start out testing more broadly.” pic.twitter.com/Nw7A3TyLnN

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) August 7, 2022

To this point, cases have been almost exclusively amongst gay and bisexual men, but officials have urged the general public that anyone is vulnerable. Dr. Anthony Fauci has said the U.S. should work to remove any stigma across the disease, but there may be concern among the many LGBTQ community that President Joe Biden’s administration had moved too slow to contain the spread of monkeypox.

Vaccines are still difficult to return by, and The Latest York Times reported last week the Department of Health and Human Services was slow to ask for supplies of the inoculations through the early days of the outbreak. That stumble means the U.S. won’t see hundreds of thousands of needed doses delivered until sometime in 2023.

The one drug that may also be used to treat monkeypox, Tpoxx, can be exceedingly hard to return by because of bureaucratic red tape.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said last week the general public health emergency would allow the federal government to raised marshal resources, noting Biden had tapped two people to coordinate the White House’s monkeypox effort.

Because the FDA considers a dose-sparing approach to extend monkeypox vaccine capability, fmr. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says decisions “could’ve been made earlier” that will’ve allowed more doses to be available.

“But, this can be a practical solution,” he says. pic.twitter.com/0C3U80R7qU

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) August 7, 2022

Gottlieb had previously said the U.S. had probably didn’t contain monkeypox after stumbling during its initial efforts to handle the virus when the primary case was reported within the country in May. He said Sunday that while there still remained a low likelihood a member of most people could be impacted by the disease, officials should still be testing as many individuals as possible.

“I feel that probably the incidence of this infection within the broader community continues to be very low,” he said. “But when we wish to contain this, if we wish to forestall this from becoming an endemic virus, we have to be looking more widely for it. And the worst-case scenario is that we start testing more broadly and we don’t find it. And that will be reassuring. But we must always be doing that.”

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