Today, prior to the confirmation vote, Senator Maggie Hassan spoke on the Senate floor, voicing her opposition to President Trump’s nominee for Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb. (Video below)
“Gottlieb, a physician and venture capitalist with long ties to the pharmaceutical industry, served as a deputy FDA commissioner and a high-ranking official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the George W. Bush administration,” wrote the Washington Post.
“It is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration – starting with its Commissioner – to protect consumers and stand up for public health. I have serious concerns about Dr. Gottlieb’s record… [and] his stances on critical priorities for people in New Hampshire and across the nation,” Senator Hassan said on the floor today.
In her remarks, Senator Hassan highlighted the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid epidemic that is devastating communities and the economy in New Hampshire, stemming in part from the overprescribing of opioids. The Senator emphasized the importance of the FDA in helping to combat substance misuse through the creation of risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS), which include prescriber training. Senator Hassan voiced concern with Gottlieb’s opposition to the creation of REMS, raising questions about what strategies the FDA would support under his leadership if confirmed.
“[The] FDA should be making REMS stronger and make sure that all opioid medications have REMS – we don’t need a Commissioner who opposed the very creation of the REMS program…In the midst of a public health challenge as serious as this epidemic, we should be taking – and we have to take – an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Senator Hassan added.
Additionally, Senator Hassan expressed concern with Gottlieb’s record of “putting politics ahead of science when it comes to women’s health,” noting that during his time in the Bush administration, Gottlieb was involved in a controversial and unscientifically-based delay in approving the emergency contraceptive Plan B for over-the-counter use.
“Unfortunately, [the Trump] Administration has made clear that it is focused on an agenda that restricts women’s access to critical health services, including family planning. Dr. Gottlieb’s record has demonstrated that he supports this backwards agenda… I am concerned that under his leadership, the FDA will play political games with women’s health once again,” Senator Hassan said.
Noting Gottlieb’s troubling record of neglecting science at the expense of protecting public health and consumer safety, Senator Hassan concluded, “Mr. President, Dr. Gottlieb’s nomination raises too many questions about whether he will put political interests ahead of science and ahead of the safety of consumers… In voting today, I cannot overlook that record, so I will vote against his nomination, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen also opposed Gottlieb’s nomination and followed through by voting no on his confirmation.
“It’s the job of the FDA, at the direction of the commissioner, to protect American consumers and ensure our food and drugs are safe. After reviewing Dr. Gottlieb’s record, I am not confident that his policies and vision for the FDA align with the needs of my constituents in New Hampshire,” said Senator Shaheen. “When Dr. Gottlieb enters the FDA as its commissioner, he will bring with him a complex web of conflicting interests with the pharmaceutical industry. Just as alarming, he holds antiquated beliefs about contraception and family planning based on politics, not science.”
“Dr. Gottlieb has advocated for a pharmaceutical company to obtain additional fentanyl for a consumer product and has voiced strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which has helped tens of thousands of Granite Staters receive treatment for substance misuse. His troubling negligence towards America’s opioid crisis confirms that I cannot in good conscience support his nomination.”
The Senate did vote to confirm Dr Gottlieb with a vote of 57-42, largely along party lines.