Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

FDA Commissioner Hamburg Appointed WHO Deputy?


Many had high hopes for the FDA when Margaret Hamburg was confirmed as Commissioner in 2009 because of her public health background. But she swiftly moved to loosen conflict of interest rules governing those who can serve on FDA expert advisory panels, claiming it was too hard to find experts without Pharma financial links.

Her move followed a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter’s revelations that child psychiatrist Jorge Armenteros, a paid consultant to AstraZeneca, was on an FDA committee voting on–any guesses?–the AstraZeneca drug Seroquel.

Last month, more questions about embedded conflicts of interest at the FDA were raised when Commissioner Hamburg appointed Robert Califf, M.D., chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke University, as the next FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco despite a thicket of conflicts of interest. It was one of her last official acts before announcing her resignation last week.

A disclosure statement on the website of Duke Clinical Research Institute says “Robert M. Califf, MD, reports receiving research grant support from Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson/Scios, Lilly, Merck, and Schering Plough, and consulting fees from Annenberg, Aterovax, Bayer/Ortho McNeil, BMS, Boehringer Ingelheim, GSK, WebMd/, Johnson and ohnson/Scios, Kowa Research Institute, McKinsey & Company, Medtronic, Merck, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi Aventis, and Schering Plough, and has an equity position with NITROX, LLC.”

In disclosure information for a 2013 article in Circulation, Dr. Califf’s also lists financial links to Gambro, Regeneron, Gilead, AstraZeneca, Roche, others companies and equity positions in four medical companies. The medical website Medscape discloses that Dr. Califf “served as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for Genentech” as well as for Medscape LLC/ Portola Pharmaceuticals says Dr. Califf served on the Board of Directors until he was appointed FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco.

Appearing on PBS with Susan Dentzer after Vioxx was withdrawn because of its links to thousands of heart attacks and stroke, Dr. Califf said, “Merck played by the rules from everything that I’ve seen.” He also said, “many of us consult with the pharmaceutical industry, which I think is a very good thing. They need ideas and then the decision about what they do is really up to the person who is funding the study.” What?

This is not the first time Dr. Califf’s extreme Pharma links have not blocked him from consideration for a top government post. He was up for Dr. Hamburg’s job itself, reported Reutersalong with three others. At the time, some medical voices asked how someone who helps drug companies market their products could possibly be considered as the nation’s chief watchdog over unsafe medications.

Industry conflicts at the FDA cost lives. Recently Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and David Vitter (R-La.) questioned whether the FDA’s approval last year of the synthetic opioid Zohydro stemmed from pay-to-play meetings with Big Pharma who allegedly shelled out thousands to meet with regulators. Big Pharma’s hand in the opioid epidemic which causes 17,000 overdose deaths a year in the U.S. is well documented and egregious.

Commissioner Hamburg’s appointment of Dr. Califf amounts to a sad legacy. It also suggests the FDA is no longer even making a pretense at policing industry/government conflicts of interest.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”