Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has announced that he is placing a hold on President Obama’s nominee to be FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf because of his close ties to Big Pharma and his lack of commitment to lowering prescription drug prices.
Sanders joined Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in placing a hold on the controversial nomination.
In a statement, Sen. Sanders said:
I share Sen. Markey’s concerns that the FDA must change the way it approaches addiction. Too many Americans are dying from what has become an opioid epidemic. I also strongly believe that at a time when millions of Americans cannot afford to purchase the prescription drugs they require, we need a leader at the FDA who is prepared to stand up to the drug companies. We need someone who will work to substantially lower drug prices, implement rules to safely import brand-name drugs from Canada and hold companies accountable who defraud our government.
Dr. Califf’s extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry give me no reason to believe that he would make the FDA work for ordinary Americans, rather than just the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies.
Sanders’ office points out that Dr. Califf has deeper ties to Big Pharma than any recent nominee to run the FDA. Califf ran a multi-million dollar clinal research facility at Duke University that received 60% of its funding from the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, and his salary came from seven drug companies and a medical device company that paid him for consulting. His university salary was supported by six drug companies including Merck, Novartis and Eli Lilly.
I am not a fan of Senate holds. Senate Republicans have abused their power for years by using holds to block Obama nominees, but the FDA is supposed to be a consumer protection agency. It is difficult to see how an individual with such comprehensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry will put consumers first.
It is easy to see why the Obama administration nominated Dr. Carliff. He is the exact type of pro-industry nominee that a Republican-controlled Congress would support. Sens. Markey and Sanders have done consumers a favor by hitting the pause button on this nomination.
The senators aren’t using their hold to obstruct Obama. They are asking for a nominee that will put the health and safety of the American people first. Sanders and Markey are striking a blow against the all too common occurrence in Washington of the regulated running the regulators.