Trump choice for FDA chief, Scott Gottlieb, has deep pharmacy industry ties
March 20, 2017
President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Food and Drug Administration has deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry as a consultant, investor and board member. Scott Gottlieb, 44, also has worn many hats in a career that included two previous stints at the FDA, practicing as a physician, and writer/editor roles at prestigious medical journals.
"It seems like the main question is, 'Which Gottlieb are we going to get?'" said Dr. Robert Califf, who stepped down from his position as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in January.
Here's a look at Gottlieb's career, by the numbers:
New Enterprise Associates, the venture capital firm where Gottlieb is a partner, is currently or has been invested in 188 health care companies.
“He has done a lot of thinking about how FDA should be managed
— his operational sophistication is going to be a great asset.”Coleen KlasmeierFormer FDA attorney
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Gottlieb serves or served on eight boards of directors, according to his LinkedIn profile. The firms include pharmaceutical companies Gradalis and Tolero Pharmaceuticals, which are developing cancer treatments, among other things; and Glytec, which offers glycemic management tools for patients with diabetes.
Eight pharmaceutical companies disclosed payments to Gottlieb in 2015, according to the open payments database: Vertex Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline, Daiichi, Valeant, Pfizer, Millennium, SI-BONE and E.R. Squibb & Sons. Payments included travel to Philadelphia, San Francisco and London.
In a memo, Gottlieb wrote that he had a consulting relationship with nine health care companies before his stint as the FDA's deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs during the George W. Bush administration. Those ties disqualified him from dealing with matters concerning those companies for at least a year. The firms included Eli Lilly, Roche and Sanofi-Aventis.
The recusals generated some headlines during the avian flu scare because Gottlieb had to recuse himself from some of the planning efforts around vaccines.
Starting in 1997, Gottlieb spent seven years as a staff writer for BMJ, the British Medical Journal. BMJ is one of the top medical journals in the world. And he was an editor at the Pulse section of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, from 1996 to 2001.
Gottlieb also spent the past seven years as an adviser to drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline's product investment board, according to his LinkedIn page.
Gottlieb was 33 when he got the No. 2 job at the FDA in 2005. He had done a short stint at the agency a few years earlier, but was considered a controversial pick because of his ties to Wall Street. He stayed until 2007.
"He has done a lot of thinking about how FDA should be managed — his operational sophistication is going to be a great asset," said former FDA attorney Coleen Klasmeier, who worked with Gottlieb and co-authored articles with him. "He also has very strong relationships among career FDA personnel and will be able to hit the ground running on a range of important initiatives."
Gottlieb testified before Congress as an expert witness 18 times. He has spoken about drug prices, revamping the FDA approval process and the vaccine supply.
"Most people watching at the FDA would breathe a sigh of relief," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who served as the FDA's principal deputy commissioner until 2011, said of Gottlieb's impending nomination. He added that Gottlieb is "not someone who has expressed antagonism to the core principles of the agency."
More than 36,000 people follow Gottlieb on Twitter, though he follows only 845 people, as of Tuesday. He has tweeted at least 10,400 times, lately about different strains of the flu.
Almost three-fourths of the 53 drug companies surveyed by Mizuho said they'd prefer Gottlieb to head the FDA.
Pharmaceutical companies paid Gottlieb nearly $414,000 from 2013 through 2015, according to federal open payments data, for speeches, consulting, travel and meals.
That included $65,780 from a pharmaceutical company to promote a controversial cystic fibrosis drug called Kalydeco. Only one other doctor received more money toward promoting the drug.
The drug's price tag was controversial because the nonprofit Cystic Fibrosis Foundation kicked in $150 million toward finding a cure for the fatal disease and got a rich $3.3 billion payday for selling its rights to royalties for the drug. Vertex Pharmaceuticals priced Kalydeco at more than $300,000 a year.
Gottlieb has contributed nearly $30,000 toward Republican political campaigns and joint fundraising committees from 2005 to 2014. He has donated toward the presidential runs of Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain. He also donated more than once to Speaker Paul Ryan.
Gottlieb contributed the most money toward Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, spending $2,600 in the primary and $2,600 again in the general election in 2013. Sasse was a vocal anti-Trump supporter, penning an open letter in February 2016 about how he could not support Trump, who was "dividing" the nation, in his view.
"But have you noticed how Mr. Trump uses the word 'Reign' — like he thinks he's running for King?" Sasse asked in the post.