Changing of Guard at FDA's Center for Tobacco Products

Zeller succeeding Deyton at regulatory body created by Tobacco Control Act

Lawrence Deyton

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- Dr. Lawrence Deyton is stepping down as director of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of food and drugs, announced in a memo on Feb. 21.

Deyton is going to George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences to serve as Clinical Professor of Medicine & Health Policy.

As reported in a Raymond James/CSP Daily News Flash, Mitchell Zeller will succeed Deyton as director of the Center for Tobacco Products on March 4.

Deyton came to the agency in 2009 to serve as the first director of FDA's newly established CTP, which was created by the passage of and to implement the Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act in 2009-- the first new center at FDA in 25 years.

"His excitement, dedication and passion for the public health quickly turned a legal statute into a landmark national tobacco product regulation program," said Hamburg. "His was a daunting task, but he did it with skill, determination and success. Under [his] guidance, CTP has, among other things: created the science base required for effective tobacco product regulation today and into the future; implemented important restrictions on tobacco manufacturing and marketing."

Calling him a "true public servant," Hamburg said Deyton's departure is "a loss for the agency." She said, "He established himself as a fair minded, professional hand at the helm of the new center. He stood up the new program in a timely fashion and stuck closely to the spirit of the legislation that established FDA's oversight of tobacco; eschewing--along the way--activist outside pressures that wanted him to use the regulatory tools in a punitive fashion. He favored a science-guided approach that respected the statute."

Prior to joining FDA, Deyton was Chief Public Health & Environmental Hazards Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Previously, he served for 11 years in leadership positions in the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), six years in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and as a legislative aide with the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Health & the Environment in the 1970s.

Deyton was a founder in 1978 of the Whitman Walker Clinic, a community-based AIDS service organization in Washington, D.C.

Zeller, meanwhile, has more than 30 years of FDA-related experience.

Mitchell ZellerHe is currently an executive with Pinney Associates, a Bethesda, Md., pharmaceutical consulting firm that does work for GlaxoSmithKline, a leading seller of nicotine-replacement therapy products. He leads efforts around strategic communications and health policy on the regulation of pharmaceuticals and tobacco products and the treatment of tobacco dependence. His work includes development and implementation of policy strategies related to evaluation and approval of new products, devising outreach strategies to key target audiences and forming public health coalitions, according to the Pinney Associates website.

Prior to joining Pinney Associates, Zeller was executive vice president of the American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing teen smoking and encouraging smokers to quit, created by the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). His responsibilities included marketing, communications and strategic partnerships. He created the foundation's first Office of Policy & Government Relations.

Zeller served as associate commissioner and director of the FDA's Office of Tobacco Programs where he built the first nationwide program to reduce youth access to tobacco. He served as the FDA's representative on tobacco issues in all dealings with the Congress, federal and state agencies, public health groups and foreign governments. He also served as an official U.S. delegate to the World Health Organization (WHO) Working Group for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. At the FDA, Zeller also worked on dietary supplements, animal drug and human drug policy issues.

Zeller began his public health career as assistant director for legal affairs with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer organization in Washington, D.C., and then as counsel to the Human Resources & Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the House Government Operations Committee, where he conducted oversight of federal health and safety agencies.

"This is a game-changer," former FDA Commissioner David Kessler told the Associated Press. "He really has committed his career to understanding tobacco at all levels. ... This is a guy that knows how to get things done."

The nation's largest cigarette maker, Marlboro manufacturer Altria Group Inc., told AP, "We believe that, under Dr. Deyton's leadership, the Center for Tobacco Products has been focused on establishing a science- and evidence-based approach to regulating tobacco products, and we will continue to engage with the agency to further this regulatory focus on science and evidence."