Dem hammers FDA nominee over ties to healthcare firms

Dem hammers FDA nominee over ties to healthcare firms
© Greg Nash

Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayOvernight Healthcare: GOP healthcare talks stall | Ryan takes backset to Pence in new repeal effort | FDA nominee grilled over industry ties Senators battle over FDA nominee's financial ties FDA nominee won't commit to banning flavored e-cigarettes, cigars MORE (D-Wash.) on Wednesday sharply questioned Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s pick to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), over his financial ties to healthcare companies.

Murray, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grilled Gottlieb during his confirmation hearing about his connections to New Enterprise Associates, a venture capital firm that invests in the healthcare sector. Gottlieb served as a consultant and investor in two funds operated by the firm.

The senator asked Gottlieb whether he would be willing to recuse himself for two years from dealing with any matters at the FDA related to companies in which New Enterprise Associates is an investor.

Gottlieb said he recognizes the importance of maintaining impartiality and that he has taken the proper steps through the Office of Government Ethics to recuse himself from matters that would raise any conflicts of interest.

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“I look forward to working with the ethics officials at [the Department of Health and Human Services] and FDA and continue to discuss what additional steps I should take to make sure I’m fully complying with the law if I’m confirmed into this role,” he said.

In the ethics agreement he signed last month, Gottlieb promised to recuse himself for one year from FDA matters that directly impact more than two dozen companies he’s tied to. He also agreed to divest his financial interests.

“I’m aware you’ve met all your minimum legal obligations, but that doesn’t mean you are recused from involvement in decisions that affect all these companies,” Murray said, pushing back.

“What I’m concerned about is how your involvement in so many companies shapes your priorities.” 

Gottlieb said he’s going to work hard to preserve the integrity of the FDA.

“I want to earn and keep the public’s trust,” he said. 

Murray also pressed Gottlieb on whether he would be willing to push back against political pressure from the Trump administration to speed up FDA approvals of drugs and medical devices and continue to base decisions on safety and science.

“Those who have worked with me, I haven’t been shy about offering my unvarnished advice,” he said. 

“We mentioned 866 articles I’ve written where I offered very clear thoughts, and I’m going to continue offering people my very clear thoughts on whatever issues I’m asked to opine on, including my bosses.”