President Obama’s appointee just sailed through the approval process, and has been approved as the next FDA Commissioner. What does this mean now that Robert Califf, known for having financial ties with Gambro, Regeneron, Gilead, AstraZeneca, Roche and other companies, but who is also equally in equity positions in four medical companies? It means the FDA has officially been bought by Big Pharma.
In disclosure information printed in Circulation, Califf also lists financial links to the maker of the $1000-a-pill hepatitis C drug AlterNet recently wrote about. But this is FDA commissioner material? No conflict of interest here, people, just keep on keepin’ on.
When Bernie Sanders condemned the vote for Califf from the campaign trail, he was vilified. Where were all the lawmakers who say they care about industry and Wall Street profiteers making money at the expense of public health? Where was Hillary Clinton, who says drug companies’ inflated prices are her worst enemy, and must be stopped? No maligning of Califf? Not even a wee-bit of concern?
Califf, who was the chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke University until recently, received money from 23 drug companies including giants like Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck, Schering Plough, and GSK according to a disclosure statement on the website of Duke Clinical Research Institute.
He has also been a director, officer, partner, employee, consultant or trustee to at least half a dozen Big Pharma companies.
Portola Pharmaceuticals says Califf served on its board of directors until leaving for the FDA.
What does Califf say about his painfully obvious ties to Big Pharma?
“Many of us consult with the pharmaceutical industry, which I think is a very good thing. They need ideas and then the decision about what they do is really up to the person who is funding the study.”
Califf has defended a Big Pharma med, Vioxx, which is reported to have caused at least 50,000 heart attacks and adverse events before it was withdrawn. He was also instrumental in the Duke drug trial of the blood thinner Xarelto and a cheerleader of the drug despite medical experts’ objections to its approval and 379 subsequent deaths.
How can a Big Pharma insider regulate Big Pharma? He can’t. May as well ignore any advice, if you weren’t already, that comes from this farce of an agency. Fools Don’t Ask. Just swallow the pill.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.