The Over-Qualified FDA Commissioner


Democrats want to have it both ways. When Betsy DeVos was nominated to be the Secretary of Education, they complained that she didn’t have enough experience. She had never worked as a teacher, they said, so she couldn’t be qualified to lead the Department of Education.

Now they’re complaining that Dr. Scott Gottlieb, nominated to be the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, has too much experience working with pharmaceutical companies. They say he has a “conflict of interest” since he knows too much about the industries he’d regulate.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board takes the Democrats to task for their over-reactions to Gottlieb. They note Washington Senator Patty Murray and other Democrats spent an entire morning whining about Gottlieb’s “unprecedented financial entanglements” because he has served as a consultant to various companies and invested in health-care startups. Rhode Island’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse tried to portray these as “dark money operations” when these financial disclosures are available on the Internet.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders used twitter to call it a “disgrace” to have an FDA commissioner who has taken money from drug companies. Yet these same committee Democrats excoriated Betsy DeVos for not having enough experience in public education.

Dr. Gottlieb has disclosed all his work in accordance with government rules and promised to liquidate all his investments. He also agreed to recuse himself for a year on decisions relevant to his past interests. He also promised to follow directives from the Health and Human Services ethics office and to be an “impartial and independent advocate for the public health.”

What are the Democrats afraid of? You might think they believe Gottlieb will somehow be “in the pocket of the drug companies.” Yet it was the Obama administration that made secret deals with Big Pharma in the backroom negotiations before the passage of ObamaCare.

If Gottlieb was expected to be soft on pharmaceutical companies, why is he promoting increasing generic drug competition? That’s certain to be good for consumers at the expense of the drug manufacturers. Reducing regulatory barriers to spur competition is the surest way to avoid the escalation of drug prices we have seen in the Obama years.

Democrats are also accusing Gottlieb of turning a blind eye to the opioid crisis because he has worked with companies that produce these drugs. The WSJ found this particularly unfathomable: “Yup – he wants to take a pay cut and subject himself to bureaucratic hassles so he can peddle pills to addict more Americans. Who writes this stuff?”

In reality, Gottlieb has gone on record saying that opioid abuse is “a public emergency on the order of Ebola and Zika” and suggested an “all of the above strategy” that would include inventing less addictive painkillers and better patient care.

Dr. Gottlieb has been a regular contributor to the discussion on how to improve our healthcare system, especially how to improve ObamaCare. That’s probably when he first earned the disdain of the Democrats. He promises to unleash the FDA to promote innovation without comprising public safety. Sounds like a man whose qualifications for the job are perfect.

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