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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Obama's appointee to head the FDA has strong ties to pharmaceutical companies

The close ties cardiologist Robert Califf, President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Food and Drug Administration, has with the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t sit well with at least one presidential hopeful. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., criticized Friday Obama’s decision to nominate Califf to the head position of the agency he was named deputy commissioner of earlier this year, according to the Hill.

Sanders has criticized the pharmaceutical industry, arguing that companies raise drug prices so CEOs can make more money. He said the government needs to listen more to the needs of Americans who think medicine is too expensive and stop submitting to the will of the industry that makes the medicine and their lobbyists.

“We need a new leader at the FDA who is prepared to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies and work to substantially lower drug prices,” Sanders said in a statement according to Politico. “Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that Dr. [Robert] Califf is not that person.”

Sanders, who sits on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, came to the conclusion that Califf was not the person for the job after a phone call with him last week, the Washington Post reported. Sanders’ committee can advance Califf’s nomination, and many have touted the former Duke researcher’s resume.

Califf has criticized the regulation of the pharmaceutical industry as a hindrance to medical innovation and research. Califf has been paid by at least seven drug companies for consulting work, and his salary at Duke was supported partially by six drug companies, the New York Times reported in September. He has also said he received financial support from more than 20 companies.


"Califf is widely respected in the public and private sectors, but his candidacy is seen by some as a threat to the independence and authority of the FDA, thanks to his views on the need to accelerate change and his deep financial and intellectual ties to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

"Califf says his salary is contractually underwritten in part by several large pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Novartis. He also receives as much as $100,000 a year in consulting fees from some of those companies, and from others, according to his 2014 conflict of interest disclosure."


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