Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, announced today that she has secured what she described as significant ethics commitments from FDA Commissioner nominee Dr. Robert Califf.
In a letter dated Jan. 27 to Warren, Califf made several promises as he seeks to secure Democratic votes for his Senate confirmation:
- He’ll recuse himself from matters involving his former employers and clients for four years, two years longer than what is required in the Biden administration’s ethics pledge.
- He does not intend to seek a waiver from his recusals.
- For four years after his tenure, he won’t seek employment or compensation — including board seats — from pharmaceutical and medical device companies he interacts with while he is commissioner.
“I intend to pursue opportunities in higher education to help educate the next generation of medical leaders. I have, and always will be, a physician and researcher first,” Califf said.
In making these commitments, Califf “has demonstrated a strong commitment to avoiding conflicts of interest and closing the revolving door between FDA and the industries it regulates,” Warren’s office said in a statement. A Warren spokesperson told Politico and The Hill that the senator plans to vote for Califf’s nomination.
A retired Duke University professor and senior advisor at Google’s life sciences sister company Verily, Califf previously won confirmation in a bipartisan 89-4 vote before serving as commissioner from 2016 to 2017 during the Obama administration.
However, he’s also faced criticism for his work as a drug company consultant — with some suggesting that his ties to the pharma industry are too close.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, has voiced opposition to confirming Califf. Manchin said in a Jan. 13 tweet: “It’s time the FDA had leadership willing to step forward to protect Americans from the drug epidemic that continues to ravage our nation. Dr. Califf is not that leader.”