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Turn That Door Around - A Physician Substantially Tied to the Pharmaceutical Industry Nominated to Run the FDA

By       Message Roy M. Poses M.D.     Permalink
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It seems to be the season of the revolving door in health care. The latest version got some media attention, because it involves one of the most important health care leadership positions in the US government, the Director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the case actually seems much more serious than what the media has recently reported.

The Basics

For an introduction, we turn to the Wall Street Journal from September 15, 2015:

President Barack Obama plans to nominate the prominent cardiologist and medical researcher Robert Califf as the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the White House said Tuesday.

Dr. Califf had been named the FDA's deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco--effectively the No. 2 post--in February. He joined the FDA from Duke University, where he had served as a professor of medicine, a leading pharmaceutical researcher and the vice chancellor for clinical and translational research.

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The new nomination got some rave reviews. For example, from the WSJ article,

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Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and a scientist who has worked with Dr. Califf for years, called this 'a fantastic nomination.'

Then this in the NY Times (Sept 15, 2015):

'He's never forgotten that at his core he's a doctor, and he cares deeply about providing evidence to help people take better care of patients,' said Dr. Robert Harrington, professor and chairman of the department of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who worked with Dr. Califf at Duke.

Also, a MedPage Today article was entitled, "Califf Nomination for FDA Chief Gets Most High Marks," and included such testimonials as,

'He has a very good understanding of industry and academia, and think that will serve him well,' Caleb Alexander, MD, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness in Baltimore, told MedPage Today....

Also, this from Dr Harlan Krumholz,

He's a broad thinker and a very creative and visionary individual. He will be an outstanding choice.

And this from Dr Sanjay Kaul,

I can't think of a more qualified person than Dr. Califf to lead the FDA at the present time. He is an accomplished leader in cardiovascular disease research whose work has resulted in therapies that save lives and improve the quality of life for millions of patients.

Is it time to break out the confetti yet?

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Conflicts of Interest a Fly in the Ointment?

The only fly in the ointment was the matter of Dr Califf's ties to industry. The WSJ article included,

Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, a Washington-based group focusing on medical-product safety, questioned his ties to the drug industry.

'Dr. Califf's expertise and his close ties to the pharmaceutical industry are both well-known,' she said. 'His ties to industry have been a source of great concern to public-health experts when he was previously considered for FDA commissioner, and those ties raise important questions about this nomination.'

The MedPage Today article noted that Public Citizen's Health Research Group stated,

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Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University, co-founder Health Care Renewal, and President of FIRM - the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine, a not-for-profit organization (NGO) designed to raise (more...)

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