FDA nom­i­nee ad­dresses con­flicts as hear­ing date set

Ex-FDA of­fi­cial Scott Got­tlieb has ties to 38 drug firms.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By An­drew Sid­dons Tri­bune News Ser­vice

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s nom­i­nee to lead the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Scott Got­tlieb, will re­sign from po­si­tions with drug in­dus­try clients and di­vest him­self of stock hold­ings. Got­tlieb said in a let­ter about his plans to avoid con­flicts of in­ter­est that he would also re­cuse him­self from de­ci­sions af­fect­ing firms he is linked to for a year af­ter his con­fir­ma­tion. Got­tlieb has ties of some sort to 38 com­pa­nies.

Got­tlieb was an FDA deputy com­mis­sioner dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. Be­fore and af­ter his gov­ern­ment ten­ure, he worked or con­sulted for a va­ri­ety of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­ter­ests.

Got­tlieb’s ties to in­dus­try are un­der scru­tiny as he awaits an April 5 con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing be­fore the Se­nate Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee.

In the let­ter to the HHS ethics of­fice, Got­tlieb out­lined how he would limit his in­volve­ment in FDA de­ci­sions re­lated to the 38 com­pa­nies that he is as­sist­ing.

Those com­pa­nies in­clude well-known phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms such as Glax­oSmithK­line and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb, as well as smaller drug­mak­ers and firms that in­vest in promis­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search.

Got­tlieb said in the let­ter that within 90 days of con­fir­ma­tion, he will di­vest his in­ter­ests.

“I will not par­tic­i­pate per­son­ally and sub­stan­tially in any par­tic­u­lar mat­ter that to my knowl­edge has a di­rect and pre­dictable ef­fect on the fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests of the en­tity un­til I have di­vested it,” he wrote.

Got­tlieb also promised he would not per­form any out­side con­sult­ing work dur­ing his ten­ure as com­mis­sioner. Though that might be a le­gal for­mal­ity, the fact that he even has to say that was enough for crit­ics of his nom­i­na­tion to reaf­firm their ar­gu­ment that his in­dus­try ties are too tightly knot­ted to un­ravel.

“As FDA com­mis­sioner, Got­tlieb will be in­volved in nu­mer­ous broad pol­icy and reg­u­la­tory de­ci­sions that will im­pact the fi­nan­cial bot­tom lines of the many com­pa­nies that he has been tied to for years,” said Michael Carome, the di­rec­tor of the health re­search group at Pub­lic Ci­ti­zen. “No amount of re­cusals will be suf­fi­cient to dis­en­tan­gle him from these fi­nan­cial con­flicts of in­ter­est and en­sure that he will put pub­lic health be­fore in­dus­try prof­its.”

How­ever, Democrats on the HELP Com­mit­tee ap­pear to be wait­ing to hold meet­ings with Got­tlieb be­fore weigh­ing in on po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est. The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ties do not ap­pear to be a con­cern for Repub­li­cans on the health panel who have met with Got­tlieb over the past week.

“He has held three roles at the agency, been a prac­tic­ing physi­cian, and is a cancer sur­vivor, so he un­der­stands from nearly every per­spec­tive the im­por­tance of the agency he’s been tapped to lead,” said com­mit­tee Chair­man La­mar Alexan­der, R-Tenn., in a state­ment last week af­ter he met with Got­tlieb.

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