Donald Trump’s nominee to head the FDA, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, reportedly told ethics officials at the Office of Government Ethics he plans to recuse himself for 1 year from agency decisions on more than 20 companies, including GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY).
Gottlieb has received millions of dollars for his roles as advisor, paid speaker and consultant to the companies, according to regulatory documents. He has also provided seed money for small, fledgling companies, advising them on regulatory matters.
Other capital came from New Enterprise Associates and from T.R. Winston & Co., where he has worked as a partner.
The FDA commissioner is not often required to intervene in company-specific decisions. Instead, they craft policy to cover entire industries. But Gottlieb’s involvement with a wide range of drug firms could be questioned by Senate Democrats in hearings next week, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In the last year, Gottlieb provided consulting work for GSK about the company’s research pipeline and the drug giant paid him $87,153 for his work.
At New Enterprise Associates, Gottlieb invested in 6 companies, including American Pathology Partners, Radiology Partners and U.S. Renal Care. He said he plans to divest interests in all of the companies.
Gottlieb’s critics said they are not as concerned about his finances as they are about his view of the FDA.
“You can’t recuse yourself from your ideology,” Harvard Medical School professor Jerome Avorn told the WSJ. “Scott has been very candid that he would like a lighter regulatory touch.”
The physician also served as deputy FDA commissioner under President George W. Bush.
“Every nominee who goes into government from private industry will have some recusals. But Scott brings a unique combination of experience. He understands how startups work, and it’s valuable for a regulator to understand this,” Gottlieb’s attorney, Leslie Kiernan, said.
Gottlieb has also received more than $200,000 in speaking fees in the last year, including $10,000 from Merck (NYSE:MRK) and $11,250 from Biogen (NSDQ:BIIB).