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Warren calls on Ex-FDA Chief Gottlieb to quit Pfizer board

Anna Edney
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a forum on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Miami.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, called on former Trump administration Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to quit the board of drug giant Pfizer Inc.

Gottlieb left his post at the FDA on April 5 and less than three months later joined Pfizer’s board or directors. Pfizer is one of the world’s biggest drugmakers, and last year was criticized sharply by President Donald Trump for price increases on many of its drugs.

“Revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption, and makes the American people rightly cynical and distrustful about whether high-level Trump administration officials are working for them, or for their future corporate employers,” Warren said in a statement.

Warren has been a critic of drugmakers, health insurers, banks and many other for-profit industries as she runs for the nomination. She has introduced legislation that would bar senior government officials from being hired by public companies for at least four years after leaving public service. On Monday, Warren blasted Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., for reviving a policy that pushes the bank’s credit-card customers into arbitration to resolve disputes instead of the courts.

Gottlieb said that he had a productive relationship with the Massachusetts lawmaker while he led the FDA. “I will respond to her letter promptly, directly, and privately,” he said in a message to Bloomberg that he also tweeted.

During an interview with CNBC Tuesday morning, Gottlieb said that decisions about drug prices were up to the executives managing the New York-based company. “I’m really proud to be a part of it,” he said of his decision to join the board.

Pfizer declined to comment on Warren’s remarks.

Moves from government service to private enterprise are common in Washington – and at the FDA. Former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, who served in the Obama administration, became an adviser to Alphabet Inc.’s Verily life sciences unit and a board member for biotechnology company Cytokinetics Inc. Andrew von Eschenbach, an FDA chief under President George W. Bush, serves on the board of Bausch Health Cos.

Gottlieb was elected to Pfizer’s board of directors on June 27. Most of the company’s directors are paid in a mix of cash and stock awards worth more than $300,000 a year.