Gottlieb gets committee approval to lead FDA
A Senate committee has voted to send the nomination of Dr. Scott Gottlieb as head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the full Senate.
In a session Thursday, members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted 14-9 to pass Gottlieb's nomination as FDA commissioner. All Republicans and two democrats — Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — voted in favor of Gottlieb.
The vote by the Senate committee was postponed by one day after Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) requested more time to review documents related to Gottlieb's financial interests. Murray has been highly critical of Gottlieb's ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Gottlieb is expected to speed up the approval of new drugs and devices, a process he has called too slow and burdensome. He has also advocated for greater physician autonomy to decide to administer experimental drugs for patients.
In a 2012 issue of the magazine National Affairs, Gottlieb wrote the FDA review "culture" should be changed, adding the agency is "poorly suited to serving the needs of the sickest patients."
But his deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry raised red flags for Democrats concerned it will cause a conflict of interest. Gottlieb has had advisory or financial connections to about 30 drug, diagnostic and device companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, according to a conflict of interest notice released by the Trump administration. He has also worked for companies that have interest in over 120 drugs that are currently being tested.
Gottlieb has agreed to remove himself from agency decisions that involve healthcare companies he previously worked with.
It's Gottlieb's interest in the pharmaceutical industry that makes him a good candidate, some lawmakers argue. In a statement after his confirmation by the committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said "(Gottlieb) has impressive qualifications from nearly every perspective. He has been a practicing physician, held three roles at the FDA and is a cancer survivor."
Gottlieb's comments earlier this month during his confirmation hearing also raised alarms. Gottlieb suggested the FDA should consider new clinical trial standards to bring innovative products to the market. This position was panned by researchers concerned new approaches would be dangerous for patients.
Gottlieb, 44, was previously a deputy commissioner of the FDA under President George W. Bush.
Along with speeding up drug approvals, Gottlieb also said tackling the opioid epidemic will be a priority for the agency if he is confirmed.
A full Senate vote is expected in May.
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