Citing FDA Nominee’s Ties to Rx Industry, Sanders to Oppose New Commissioner

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 – With prescription drug prices skyrocketing, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today he will vote against confirming Dr. Robert Califf as the new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration because of his ties to the industry.

“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,” Sanders said after speaking with the nominee. Califf’s confirmation will come before the Senate health committee, which Sanders sits on.

Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Last year, one in five Americans were unable to afford the drugs their doctors prescribed. Prices for some prescription drugs soared 1,000 percent or more in recent years. Since 2002, total spending on medicine in the United States went up by more than 90 percent.

Sanders cited Califf’s extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry he would oversee.

The New York Times recently reported that Califf ran a multimillion-dollar clinical research center at Duke University that received more than 60 percent of its funding from the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. He has written scientific papers with pharmaceutical company researchers. His financial disclosure form last year listed seven drug companies and a device maker that paid him for consulting and six others –including Merck, Novartis and Eli Lilly – which supported his university salary.

“Instead of listening to the demands of the pharmaceutical industry and their 1,400 lobbyists, it is about time that the FDA and Congress started listening to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that medicine is too expensive,” the senator said. “It is time for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world by implementing prescription drug policies that work for everybody, not just the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry."

Last year, the pharmaceutical industry spent $250 million on lobbying and campaign contributions and employed some 1,400 lobbyists. The top three pharmaceutical companies made a combined $45 billion in profits last year and spent more on sales and marketing than they did on research and development.