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Trump’s Pick to Head the FDA Has Strong Ties to Drug Companies

Scott Gottlieb

Proponents say Scott Gottlieb will lower drug costs, but critics say his connections to the pharmaceutical industry make him shrouded in mystery. So can we trust him? 

President Donald Trump has announced his choice to head the Food and Drug Administration in an emailed statement to Bloombergthis week: Scott Gottlieb, a former deputy commissioner for the U.S. FDA, who’s not only a favorite of President Trump’s, but also the drug industry at large.

During the George W. Bush Administration, Gottlieb, a physician, served in several senior positions at the FDA. Since then, he has worked as an advisor to investment firms, and has consulted for many large pharmaceutical companies. Historically, Gottlieb has talked about the need for updating and speeding up the FDA’s drug approval process by lessening regulations, which, in combination with his ties to big drug companies, has many raising eyebrows.

Proponents say that Gottlieb has a solid reputation and is the safest choice among other names that have been floating around for the job. Another positive about Gottlieb for many is that, in the process of decreasing regulation, drug costs will also decrease, making medications more affordable for the consumer — and perhaps more profitable for the drug companies.

Although he does have some important supporters, such as Ellen Sigal, founder and chair of Friends of Cancer Research, a non-partisan organization aimed at speeding up the approval of promising drugs, he has also caught the attention of political watchdog groups.

One such group, Public Citizen, has stated that Gottlieb’s views on changing the FDA’s approval process and his history of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from drug manufacturers in the past make him a dangerous choice.

Dr. Michael Carome, the head of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, says he is doubtful lower drug costs will reach the consumer. “Dr. Gottlieb is someone who has an unprecedented web of financial ties and conflicts of interest to the pharmaceutical industry,” Carome said to Vocativ, following the announcement of Gottlieb’s nomination. “There’s no reason to expect companies that are able to bring drugs to market faster are going to lower the costs of their drugs. They’re going to push the costs as far as they can, as far as the market will bear.”

Gottlieb must first be confirmed by the Senate before he can officially take the position as head of FDA. 

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