Some interesting developments were had in a hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where Scott Gottleib, President Trump’s pick to lead the FDA, answered questions about his stances and the direction the FDA would go in under his care. In that conversation, Gottleib assured lawmakers that his previous private sector connections would be severed if he took office, that the FDA would be focusing strongly on opioids… and that they were going to look into, and may crack down on, claims of health benefits by cannabis products.
Gottleib, a former FDA staffer that left to work in the business world, maintained connections with investment banks and pharmaceutical firms as late as early this year, according to financial disclosure forms. Gottleib assured Senators that if he was confirmed for the FDA position, he’d divest interests from about a dozen companies and temporarily recuse himself from making decisions at around 20 companies where he has financial interests or was paid consulting fees. Among those businesses are pharmaceutical giants such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline.
“The opioid epidemic in this country has staggering human consequences,” Gottleib said in the hearing. “I think this is the biggest crisis facing the agency.” He proposed that the agency would have to pursue a variety of solutions to try to contain the crisis, including working with drugmakers that are seeking approval for alternatives and abuse-deterrent versions of the drug, including “push[ing] the policy boundaries” for safer opioids and other alternatives.
Hidden amongst the talk of Opioids was a bit about how he may approach cannabis as the head of the FDA. “I see people who are developing products who are making claims that marijuana has antitumor effects in the setting of cancer,” he said during the hearing. “It’s a much broader question about where our responsibility is to step into this.”