WASHINGTON -- In a decision split closely down party lines, the U.S. Senate voted 57-42 on May 9 to confirm Dr. Scott Gottlieb as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where he will be responsible for regulating drug companies to which he has had close ties in recent years, according to The New York Times.
Gottlieb has promised to divest himself from several healthcare companies and recuse himself for one year from decisions involving those businesses—including an electronic-cigarette franchisor—but that was not enough for many Democratic senators, the Times reported.
“He has not convinced me he can withstand political pressure from this administration, or that he will be truly committed to putting our families’ health first,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., during the debate before the Senate vote. “I’ve grown increasingly concerned about whether he can lead the FDA in an unbiased way, given his unprecedented industry ties.”
Gottlieb's tie to the tobacco industry includes an investment in an e-cigarette manufacturer and retail franchise based in Charlotte, N.C., called Kure Corp. Because of his ties to vaping, Gottlieb recused himself from commenting on vaping for a period of one year.
Vaping and tobacco industry proponents are hopeful that Gottlieb will ultimately be more favorable toward harm-reduction products than current FDA officials have been.
In a statement, Tom Price, Health and Human Services secretary, said Gottlieb’s “background will be crucial” for maintaining the FDA’s high standards for safe treatments “while advancing new, innovative solutions” to the nation’s public-health challenges.
Regarding his resume, Gottlieb is no stranger to the FDA. He served as a top official at the agency during President George W. Bush’s time in office, holding roles including deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs.
Outside the government, Gottlieb has been a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates, Chevy Chase, Md., where he focused on healthcare investments, and has longstanding ties to the drug industry. He served as a consultant or board member for several companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Brentford, U.K., and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Boston.