Senate grills Trump FDA pick Scott Gottlieb on pharma ties, public health

The former FDA Deputy Commissioner under George W. Bush also vowed to maintain the FDA’s gold standard on research and development. Democrats, however, were skeptical about his ability to withstand political pressure from President Trump.
By Jessica Davis
04:22 PM
Senate Trump FDA Gottlieb

President Trump’s nominee to head the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, MD, said the opioid crisis will be a top priority if he is confirmed. And he said that science, rather than politics or ideology, would dictate his decision making. But Democrats were not convinced.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) wasted no time in railing Gottlieb for his “unprecedented financial entanglements with the industries he would regulate as FDA commissioner.”

“It is critical that the FDA have strong, independent leadership, especially now in light of President Trump’s apparent disregard for public health,” Murray said. “I have grown incredibly concerned about whether you can withstand political pressure.”

Gottlieb told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that science must be the cornerstone of FDA’s decision-making process of the FDA and the agency must uphold its gold standard on research and development.

“There’s a need for an absolutely objective regulatory watchdog over this field,” Gottlieb said. “If confirmed, I’ll lead the FDA as an impartial and passionate advocate for public health.”

Likening the opioid crisis to a “public health emergency on the order of Ebola,” for instance, Gottlieb said he will work to find alternatives to addictive pain medications - including new policies, revaluating the framework on discovering these drugs and researching correlating devices.

But Murray also pressed Gottlieb on his last stint with the FDA where he “defended the administration’s ideological position on behind the counter options for Plan B, allowing politics to interfere directly with women’s access to health services they need.”

“Given that Trump’s clear willingness to skirt ethics rules and pressure federal employees to jam their policies through, not to mention, their commitment to undermining women’s access to birth control and other health services, I find that aspect of your history especially troubling,” she continued.

Another major concern? Gottlieb has invested in companies that will bring over 60 drugs before the FDA for approval in the near future. He also has companies with interests in more than 120 currently being tested.

“It does trouble me that you appear to be investing and advising in a company and then using your public platform to promote policies that actually benefit that company in the future,” she continued.

Gottlieb recently separated himself from over 20 biopharma companies he worked with during the Obama administration. He’s been involved with GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Molecular Insight Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Daiichi Sankyo and others.

Gottleib was the FDA Deputy Commissioner under George W. Bush. He’s a physician and hospitalist as well as a venture capitalist and health consultant, who is known for his opposition of FDA regulations.