President Trump's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration plans to recuse himself for a year from agency decisions involving more than 20 companies that he has worked for, invested in or had some other kind of financial relationship with, according to federal ethics filings.
Scott Gottlieb, a physician who served as deputy FDA commissioner during the administration of George W. Bush, has worked for numerous firms in a range of roles, including as a consultant, a guest speaker, an investor and an adviser, according to the ethics agreement filed at the Office of Government Ethics.
Among the companies on Gottlieb's recusal list are two big pharmaceuticals companies: GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb. He plans to resign his position as a member of Glaxo's product investment board and steer clear of issues affecting the company at the FDA.
The document showed that Gottlieb provided consulting services to Bristol-Myers Squibb through his company Innovating Healthcare. He said the consulting company ceased operations in December and that he would avoid decisions involving Bristol-Myers for a year during his tenure as commissioner.
The nominee is also selling off financial interests in several firms and resigning from some positions he has held, the document shows. For example, as a partner in the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, Gottlieb invested in a laboratory-testing company called American Pathology Partners and five other firms.
Similarly, at investment banking firm T.R. Winston & Co., where Gottlieb has been a managing director, he has investments in 13 client companies, including one that is working on treatments for sickle cell disease and another that is focusing on Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
The ethics agreement, which was in the form of a letter to the ethics officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. According to the Journal, Gottlieb made $3 million in gross income during 2016 and through March 1, 2017. That amount included $1.85 million from T.R. Winston.
Gottlieb's deep financial ties to the health-care industry have long been known and are sure to draw complaints from congressional Democrats during his confirmation process. But he has strong support within the drug industry — which had worried that Trump would select an FDA head with a libertarian point of view on drug regulation, which could disrupt their industry — and seems likely to be confirmed.
While Gottlieb has a more traditional view of the agency's role, he's likely to try to make substantial changes, including speeding up the approval process for complex generic medications. He has also criticized the agency as being too restrictive in its views on “off-label” communications, which involve manufacturers' touting of drugs for purposes for which they haven’t been approved.
The ethics document said Gottlieb also plans to resign from positions at the American Enterprise Institute, the New York University School of Medicine and the Society of Hospital Medicine.