Trump’s pick for FDA lead is neck deep in opioid industry cash

“Dr. Gottlieb has also said he wants the FDA approval process to move faster, and that FDA has too high of a standard for safety.”

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Dr. Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s choice to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) apparently has some deep ties to the opioid industry.

According to newly released disclosure documents analyzed by The Intercept, Gottlied has received significant payments from the opioid industry, and has helped fight attempts to slow the expansion of opioid pill mills.

According to the disclosure statements, which are required under federal law, Gottlied has received almost $45,000 in speaking fees just in the last year from firms responsible for the manufacture and distribution of opioids.

Specifically, Hottlied received $22,500 from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals for a speech in London last November. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals makes a highly addictive oxycodone pill. The Big Pharma company has been investigated for filling 500 million suspicious orders in Florida for its oxycodone orders between 2009 and 2012. Just this week they reached a settlement of $35 million. 

Other companies that Gottlieb received payments for included:

  • Healthcare Distributors Alliance – A trade group for the largest opioid wholesale distributors in America. The HDA executive committee includes representatives from Americsource Bergen Drug Corp., McKesson Corporation and Cardinal Health. All three of these companies have been investigated for unusually large shipments of prescription painkillers in West Virginia. Cardinal Health temporarily lost its license to distribute opioids from its Florida warehouse after the FDA discovered they had supplied several pharmacies known to be pill mills.
  • Johnson & Johnson – This company owns a subsidiary that produces the opioid painkiller Nucynta.
  • Pfizer – This company manufactures several opioid products.
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Gottlieb has condemned the DEA’s actions against pharmaceutical companies in the past, arguing that Big Pharma companies shouldn’t be treated like drug dealers. His statement on the Cardinal Health scandal included things like, “So Cardinal isn’t a Colombian drug ring. Its CEO isn’t Pablo Escobar. Like other large distributors, Cardinal has invested heavily in systems to track unusual narcotics-sales patterns.”

He is also a supporter of a faster FDA approval process for new drugs and has fought against regulating prescription drug prices in the past.

Democratic Senators are announcing their opposition to Gottlieb’s nomination. Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) stated, “Dr. Gottlieb has also said he wants the FDA approval process to move faster, and that FDA has too high of a standard for safety. I strongly disagree with that.”

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) stated, “People die because of the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately Dr. Gottlieb’s record indicates that as commissioner he wouldn’t take the epidemic and the FDA’s authority to rein in prescription painkillers and other drugs seriously enough.”

Overall, Gottlieb made more than $3 million in 2016 alone from speaking fees, consulting arrangements with drug companies, board memberships, and work with healthcare-focused investment firms.

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