July 3, 2019

Warren calls on Gottlieb to resign from Pfizer's board

Daily Briefing

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, on Monday called on former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to resign from his new post on Pfizer's board of directors.

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    Gottlieb, a physician who has spent much of his career working in the pharmaceutical and health care industries, served as FDA commissioner from 2017 to 2019. He stepped down from the role in April.

    Pfizer on Thursday announced Gottlieb was joining the company's board beginning June 27. Regulatory filings show members of Pfizer's board in 2018 were paid a minimum of $335,000 in stock and cash.

    Gottlieb's decision to join a pharmaceutical company's board after serving as FDA commissioner is typical, STAT News reports. According to STAT News, all former FDA commissioners over the past 38 years—with the exception of former FDA commissioner David Kessler, who served from 1990 to 1997—have joined a pharmaceutical company's board. For example, former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, who served immediately before Gottlieb, joined Cytokinetics' board, and former FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who served before Califf, joined Alnylam Pharmaceuticals' board.

    Warren calls on Gottlieb to resign from Pfizer's board

    Warren in a letter sent Monday to Gottlieb praised his time at FDA, but criticized his decision to join Pfizer's board. She wrote, "This kind of revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption, and makes the American people rightly cynical and distrustful about whether high-level Trump administration officials are working for them, or for their future corporate employers."

    Warren wrote that Gottlieb is the second high-ranking administration official to join a company's board after their resignation, noting that President Trump's former Homeland Security Secretary and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly joined the board of Caliburn, which operates a shelter for unaccompanied undocumented children in Florida.

    Warren urged Gottlieb to "rectify [his] mistake and immediately resign from [his] position as a Pfizer board member."

    Gottlieb defends his decision

    Gottlieb during an appearance on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday defended his decision to join Pfizer's board. "I worked with some large drugmakers before I came into the agency," Gottlieb said, and noted that his new role on Pfizer's board is more substantial than any position he held before serving as commissioner. Gottlieb continued, "I made no bones about the fact that I had expertise in life sciences and I made my living trying to promote innovation in this sector prior to coming to [FDA]."

    In addition, Gottlieb in a tweet posted Tuesday wrote that he would respond to Warren's letter "promptly, directly, and privately" (LaVito, CNBC, 7/2; Facher, STAT News, 7/2; Mishra, Reuters, 7/2; Weixel, The Hill, 7/2).

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