News & Politics

Sanders 'Disappointed' That Obama's Pharma-Friendly FDA Pick Was Confirmed by Senate

Dr. Robert Califf was confirmed by a vote of 89-4.

The Senate has voted to confirm Dr. Robert Califf as Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. President Obama's nominee cleared opposition with some help from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who held a procedural vote at the beginning of the week to clear the way for Califf's confirmation.

Califf, 64, was a cardiologist at Duke University before being appointed as the FDA’s deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco in 2015. While Califf's 89-4 vote suggests bipartisan support, several lawmakers expressed concerns about Califf including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Last month Sanders released a statement summarizing his concerns with the nomination. "Califf has deeper ties to the pharmaceutical industry than any FDA commissioner in recent history," said Sanders, "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."

A New York Timespiece from 2015 detailed Califf's connections to the drug industry and explained why Obama's selection was worrying so many people: "If confirmed, Dr. Califf will be steering a vast and powerful federal agency that regulates about a quarter of every dollar spent in the United States. It is at the center of some of the most difficult health policy questions facing the country."

Sanders is obviously on the campaign trail but he expressed disappointment over the senate confirmation.



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Michael Arria covers labor and social movements. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelarria