Dr. Scott Gottlieb, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is a widely respected physician and prominent conservative health care thinker. He also has some serious financial ties to the industry he’s tasked with overseeing if ultimately confirmed by the Senate.
The nominee, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, has spent the bulk of his career working in the drug and health care industry, which experts say raises the potential for myriad conflicts of interest. If confirmed to head the F.D.A., he would wield considerable power over companies and investment firms that have paid him millions of dollars over the years.
Gottlieb has received millions of dollars in compensation from some 20-odd biopharma and health firms, according to financial disclosure documents reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Gottlieb says he plans to recuse himself from any FDA decisions involving those firms. That would include drug giants such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK, -1.21%) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY, +0.04%) — two companies that have an approximate combined $185 billion market cap between them alone.
But the nominee’s involvement in the business of health care is far more involved. For instance, he served as a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates and poured cash into several health care startups while involved with outfits like T.R. Winston & Co.
Furthermore, Gottlieb was a senior adviser to rare disease drug maker Vertex Pharmaceuticals and helped found the cancer biotech upstart Cell Biotherapy. His payments from the industry have mostly been for consulting and speaking fees, including more than $87,000 from GlaxoSmithKline since 2016 and $1.85 million from T.R. Winston.
Those associations may not ultimately sway Gottlieb’s decisions as FDA commissioners. Previous heads of the agency have also had relationships with the biopharma sector, including Obama FDA chief Dr. Robert Califf, and it’s rare for commissioner to get personally involved in individual company-related decisions.
Dr. Gottlieb’s nomination comes at a momentous time for the agency, which Mr. Trump has promised to significantly remake. The next commissioner will be charged with putting into practice a far-reaching law, passed in December, aimed at bringing drugs to market more quickly. Congress also must reauthorize a set of bills this year that determine how much the drug and medical device industry will pay in user fees, which fund more than half of the agency’s budget to review new drugs.