Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced today that he has placed a hold on Food and Drug Administration Commissioner nominee Dr. Robert Califf because of his close ties to the pharmaceutical industry and lack of commitment to lowering drug prices. Sanders joins with Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who also placed a hold on Califf’s nomination.
“I share Sen. Markey’s concerns that the FDA must change the way it approaches addiction. Too many Americans are dying from what has become an opioid epidemic,” Sanders said in a statement. “I also strongly believe that at a time when millions of Americans cannot afford to purchase the prescription drugs they require, we need a leader at the FDA who is prepared to stand up to the drug companies. We need someone who will work to substantially lower drug prices, implement rules to safely import brand-name drugs from Canada and hold companies accountable who defraud our government.”
Last year, one in five Americans – 35 million people – were unable to afford to fill their prescriptions. 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.
“Dr. Califf’s extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry give me no reason to believe that he would make the FDA work for ordinary Americans, rather than just the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies,” Sanders reiterated.
Califf has deeper ties to the pharmaceutical industry than any FDA commissioner in recent history. He 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. And 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.