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Elizabeth Warren calls on former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb to resign from board of Pfizer

Published on 02/07/19 at 04:57pm
Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elizabeth_Warren_(47699370372).jpg

Democrat Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has criticised Scott Gottlieb for joining Pfizer.  

In a letter to Gottlieb, Senator Warren called on the former FDA commissioner to ‘reconsider’ his decision to join the US firm, as she suggested he should immediately resign.

Writing on 1 July, Senator Warren warned Mr Gottlieb that “this kind of revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption” as she urged the now Pfizer board member: “rectify your mistake and immediately resign from your position as a Pfizer board member.”

In highlighting the damage the move will cause, Warren warned that Gottlieb’s appointment to the board of Pfizer works to make “the American people rightfully cynical and distrustful about whether high-level Trump Administration officials are working for them, or for their future corporate employers.”

Additionally, in questioning Gottlieb’s motives, Warren said: “This will certainly be a lucrative move for you- according to Pfizer, board members in 2018 were paid $142,500 in cash retainers, plus received $192,500 worth of Pfizer stock.”

The letter raises the issue of an increasingly fast-spinning ‘revolving door’ through which high level bureaucrats enter the corporate world.

“You are the second high-level Trump Administration official in less than two months to join the board of a corporation soon after leaving government service,” Warren said. “In May 2019, former Trump Administration DHS Secretary and Chief of Staff John Kelly joined the board of Calibum, Inc., the parent company of the Comprehensive Health Services, which runs the notorious Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Florida.”

The Massachusetts Senator added: “I have introduced sweeping ethics legislation, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which would shut the revolving door and prohibit giant companies like Pfizer from wielding undue influence by hiring or compensating you or any other senior government officials for at least four years after leaving government service. I intend to keep working to make that plan law.”

Warren was however clear in stating the contributions Gottlieb made while heading the FDA: “I was pleased to have worked with you on a number of public health priorities during your time at the FDA, including strengthening oversight of antibiotic use in animals and fighting the opioid epidemic.”

“Unlike other administration officials who dedicated themselves to rolling back public health and consumer regulations, you often used your tenure to strengthen protections for Americans: for example, you worked to reduce rates of youth tobacco use, and took steps to increase the FDA's transparency. But now, you will be on the board of a company that has billions of dollars at stake in the decisions made by the agency you used to head and the employees you used to lead.”

Nonetheless, in demanding that Gottlieb resign, Warren suggested that “Doing so would send a strong and necessary message to the American people about the importance of government ethics and the integrity of current and former federal officials.”

Gottlieb responded in an email to STAT: “I’ve never been shy about my belief that America has the best biopharmaceutical sector in the world and this sector and its output of beneficial medicines is one of our great national achievements. At the same time, I’m confident my record at FDA demonstrates I put the public health interest first and called balls and strikes based on the science and the public interest.”

Louis Goss

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