WASHINGTON (Reuters)—U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a conservative health policy expert with deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry, to lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the White House said on Friday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Gottlieb would be in charge of implementing Trump’s plan to dramatically cut regulations governing food, drugs, cosmetics, dietary supplements and tobacco.
Gottlieb is well known on Capitol Hill, where he has testified multiple times on hot-button health issues, including complex drug pricing matters, and is viewed favorably by drug companies and pharmaceutical investors. He sits on the boards of several small drug and biotech companies and is an adviser to GlaxoSmithKline Plc.
“Thank God it’s Gottlieb,” Brian Skorney, an investment analyst at Robert W. Baird, writes in a research note. “We view this as a favorable development for the sector.”
Gottlieb was chosen over Jim O’Neill, a libertarian investor close to Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, a PayPal co-founder who now advises Trump on technology and science matters. O’Neill’s stated view that drugs should be approved before being proven effective generated widespread alarm.
Gottlieb, 44, is a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank and a partner at a large venture capital fund. He is a former FDA deputy commissioner who has advocated a loosening of requirements needed for approval of new medical products.
“Scott knows how the agency works and he will move it forwards, though maybe not always in ways the agency is comfortable with,” says John Taylor, a lawyer and president of compliance and regulatory affairs with the consulting firm Greenleaf Health and a former acting FDA deputy commissioner.
In addition to his public health and health policy roles, Gottlieb has for the past decade been a partner at New Enterprise Associates, a large venture fund with investments in the life sciences, medical technology and healthcare services.
Critics of the nomination say Gottlieb’s financial background present an array of potential conflicts of interest.
Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, says Gottlieb “has spent most of his career dedicated to promoting the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry.” If confirmed, he adds, “he will have to be recused from key decisions time and time again.”
Significant Changes Expected at the FDA
Stephen Ubl, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, says it “looks forward to working with Dr. Gottlieb in his new role and engaging with him and the agency as they seek to modernize the drug discovery and review process.”