Psst! Industry has Taken Over FDA

Jim Dickinson, Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry: September 17, 2015

Just six years ago, the industry-at-arm’s-length tradition held sway—as it had throughout FDA’s history—when Califf was passed over in Obama’s hunt for a commissioner.

The reason? The Duke University researcher of numerous drug industry clinical trials was then viewed as being too close to the pharmaceutical industry—the same reason that had for decades kept other similarly situated candidates from being chosen to lead the world’s premier health regulatory agency. New York health commissioner Margaret Hamburg was chosen instead.


No matter how sincere a commissioner might be—and Hamburg was—in divesting him or herself from all potential appearances of possible conflicts of interest before taking on the job, suspicions will linger in the minds of people and groups ready to provoke investigations that cost taxpayer dollars.

That is exactly what seems to be developing in the case of Califf’s nomination.

In a press release, Public Citizen said the Senate should reject it because of Califf’s close ties with industry over the years. “During his tenure at Duke University, Califf racked up a long history of extensive financial ties to multiple drug and medical device companies, including Amgen, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Merck Sharp & Dohme and Sanofi-Aventis, to name a few,” the group said. “Strikingly, no FDA commissioner has had such close financial relationships with industries regulated by the agency prior to being appointed.”

Echoing similar concerns, National Center for Health Research president Diana Zuckerman said Califf could have a bias toward industry after working in tandem with companies that funded clinical research at Duke.

When Califf joined the agency last February as deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco—a step widely seen as grooming him to become commissioner—Zuckerman told Time that his “interdependent relationships” may bring into question his “objectivity and distance.” In the Time article, she pointed out that research has shown that scientists may unknowingly be swayed by their industry relationships.

Read the original article here.