Senator Bernie Sanders Voices Opposition to Califf as FDA Commissioner

October 09, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), currently running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he will oppose Dr Robert Califf as the next US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner[1].

Senator Bernie Sanders

The senator, who is gaining markedly in visibility since announcing his presidential plans, said he will vote against Califf to lead the FDA because of Califf's previous ties to the pharmaceutical industry and an alleged lack of commitment toward lowering the cost of medications for Americans.

In a statement, Sanders said the following: "At a time when millions of Americans cannot afford to purchase the prescription drugs they need, we need a new leader at the FDA who is prepared to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies and work to substantially lower drug prices. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that Dr Califf is not that person."

Dr Robert Califf

President Obama nominated Califf to the FDA's top job in September, and he was expected to be confirmed by the US Senate with relative ease, according to media reports. Thus far, Califf has garnered support from Republicans and Democrats in the Republican-controlled senate.

Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, told the New York Times in September it too opposes the nomination, criticizing Califf's "extensive record of close collaboration with industry, through consulting fees, speaking fees, and research grants supporting his salary"[2]. Supporters, however, were quick to point out that the Duke Clinical Research Institute, which Califf founded and led, has always fought to remain independent from the pharmaceutical companies funding research through the institution.

Also, the Boston Globe is reporting today that Califf removed his name from a series of papers critical of the FDA's oversight of clinical trials[3]. The papers, which ran as a series and examined the role of pragmatic clinical trials, included sections critical of the FDA. According to the report, Califf removed his name from three papers he had cowritten, although the reasons are not clear. The agency said Califf removed his name voluntarily and was not asked to mask his authorship. Califf declined to comment to the Globe.

Califf had been serving as the deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco, a position he took in February 2015 after a long and distinguished career as a cardiologist and researcher at Duke University. Before taking the FDA post, Califf served on the advisory board of theheart.org|Medscape Cardiology. He had been a contributing editor to theheart.org since its founding in 1999 and was the host of the long-running series "Life and Times of Leading Cardiologists."

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