By Ahmed Aboulenein
WASHINGTON -U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday he would oppose President Joe Biden’s nominee for Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Robert Califf, because of his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
Biden nominated Califf, a well-regarded cardiologist and researcher closely linked with the pharmaceutical industry, in November for a second stint as commissioner. Califf previously served as FDA commissioner from February 2016 until the end of then-President Barack Obama’s second term in January 2017.
“After leaving the FDA in 2017, he received consulting fees from Merck, Biogen and Eli Lilly,” Sanders said in a statement. “According to his financial disclosure form, he owns up to $8 million in the stocks of major drug companies. That is exactly the close relationship Big Pharma has exploited to regulate the FDA, instead of the FDA regulating them.”
Sanders, an independent from Vermont, added: “I will oppose his nomination.”
Sanders made the comments after a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee of which he is a member. The committee will vote on whether to confirm Califf before he is considered by the full Senate. It has not scheduled a vote yet.
Senators Joe Manchin and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, have said previously they would oppose the nomination. Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Senate and so Califf will need Republican support.
Califf was confirmed for his first term by the Senate 89-4 with broad bipartisan support. The HELP Committee’s ranking Republican senator, Richard Burr, said after Tuesday’s hearing that he will support Califf.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein in WashingtonEditing by Sonya Hepinstall and Matthew Lewis)