FDA pick faces questioning on ties to industry he'd regulate

Scott Gottlieb, President Donald Trump's nominee to run the Food and Drug Administration, emphasized in his confirmation hearing Wednesday his belief "in the gold standard of safety and efficacy" at the agency and said he hopes to expand approvals of generic drugs to lower USA prices.

Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee peppered Scott Gottlieb with questions about whether he would be unable to separate himself from the interests of more than two-dozen drug and medical device companies he's either invested in or consulted for.

"This is a staggering human tragedy that is going to require dramatic action on the part of the agency", Gottlieb said, adding the FDA's response had been "too incremental" over the years - and the agency had been "complicit, even if unwittingly" in helping to fuel the epidemic, The Washington Post reported. He also said he would resign from positions in a venture capital firm and investment bank that fund health companies, and as a board member or consultant to nine other health-related companies.

His nomination is generally expected to be approved.

"The worry about impartiality is certainly connected to the private sector experience but it's also to your very deep political involvement as well", Murphy said.

"We need to make sure we're getting the most bang for our regulatory buck", Gottlieb said in his opening statement.

Gottlieb has promised to divest his financial interest in Kure and recuse himself from any particular matter involving the company for one year, but the advocacy group said that's not enough.

Senators, particularly Democrats, may also quiz Gottlieb about his plan to carry out Trump's vision of deregulating the drug industry and bringing treatments to market faster. While President Donald Trump seems open to working with Democratic lawmakers about drug importation legislation, Dr. Gottlieb has previously opposed the measure. Ultimately, he said, science will tell where to draw that line. "I think there are ways to modernize clinical studies without sacrificing the gold standard [of safety and efficacy]", he said.

While Trump has not said whether he believes the two are linked, he met with leading vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. just days before he took office.

  • Joanne Flowers