In September, 2015, President Obama nominated Dr. Robert M. Califf to head the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Califf already holds a powerful position within the FDA. He became the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco in February, 2015. But for some, Califf’s deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry are an unacceptable conflict of interest. That is why he was passed over when considered for the position in 2009.
Ties to the Pharmaceutical Industry
In a confirmation hearing on November 17, 2015, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren questioned Califf about his connections to the pharmaceutical companies. He has received research funding from numerous pharmaceutical companies and worked as a consultant for even more, including:
- Bayer/Ortho McNeil
- GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
- Boehringer Ingelheim
- Johnson & Johnson
In a 2014 disclosure, he admitted the at least part of his salary at the Duke University School of Medicine was funded by industry giants such as Eli Lilly and Janssen. He left the university in early 2015 to accept his role as deputy commissioner at the FDA.
Califf has been a consultant for or received funding from the companies that make some of the most noteworthy dangerous and defective drugs and devices on the market today, such as Xarelto, Prinivil (lisinopril), Pradaxa, Essure, and power morcellators.
In fact, Califf led a clinical trial of Xarelto that was found, by the FDA, to be biased in favor of the drug in 2011. The agency went ahead with approval against the recommendations of its scientists. More problems with the clinical trial have recently come to light.
Today more than ever the public relies on strong regulation from the FDA. It would be dangerous to put a puppet of the pharmaceutical industry in a position of power. It could help open the door to allowing manufacturers of defective drugs and defective medical devices to push their products on unsuspecting patients who may become nothing more than guinea pigs for the profit hungry manufacturers.