Biden Picks Former Pharma Consultant to Lead FDA, Immediately Draws Democratic Backlash

President Joe Biden announced on Friday that he will nominate former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf to lead the agency once again, prompting complaints from his own party, The New York Times reports.

Califf led the agency under former President Barack Obama but some critics have raised concerns over his work as a consultant for drug companies.

Califf also ran a research center at Duke University that received funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

But the White House may have concluded that they could not find any suitable candidate without pharmaceutical ties, according to the Times, and sped up the pick of Califf.

The FDA has been without a permanent commissioner since 2015, a major concern given the agency's key role in the Covid response.

The agency has come under fire for months for its handling of authorizations for Covid tests, protective gear, vaccines, and treatments.

Biden touts Califf's experience:

“Dr. Califf is one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country, and has the experience and expertise to lead the Food and Drug Administration during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic,” Biden said in a statement. “As the F.D.A. considers many consequential decisions around vaccine approvals and more, it is mission critical that we have a steady, independent hand to guide the F.D.A. I am confident Dr. Califf will ensure that the F.D.A. continues its science and data drive decision-making.”

Califf in his last tenure pushed to loosen restrictions on pharmaceutical advertisements for off-label uses for drugs approved by the FDA but the Obama administration ultimately shut down the plan.

Manchin opposes:

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he would oppose Califf's nomination over his ties to the pharmaceutical industry, citing drug companies' role in the opioid epidemic.

"Dr. Califf’s nomination and his significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry take us backwards not forward," Manchin said in a statement. "His nomination is an insult to the many families and individuals who have had their lives changed forever as a result of addiction."

"I urge the Administration to nominate an FDA Commissioner that understands the gravity of the prescription drug epidemic and the role of the FDA in fighting back against the greed of the pharmaceutical industry," he added.


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