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Tell the Senate: No Big Pharma ally as FDA chief

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Petition to the U.S. Senate:

"Oppose the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf as head of the Food and Drug Administration. At a time of rising prescription drug prices and safety risks we need a champion for American families, not an insider so closely tied to the pharmaceutical industry."

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    Tell the Senate: No Big Pharma ally as FDA chief

    Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs of anywhere in the world – and the cost is going up, 12% on average in the last year and in some cases nearly 1,000%.1

    The problem is bigger than profit vultures like former hedge fund “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli. Giant pharmaceutical companies spend millions on lobbyists to defend their monopolies and benefit from trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.2 Instead of fighting for lower prices, Congress and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) routinely side with Big Pharma.

    We need an FDA chief with the guts to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies. But instead, President Obama has nominated Robert Califf, a doctor described as “the ultimate industry insider.”3 Sen. Bernie Sanders recently made waves by announcing he would oppose Califf’s nomination, and we need to demand the rest of the Senate follow his lead.4

    Tell the Senate: No Big Pharma ally as FDA chief.

    According to the New York Times, Dr. Califf “has deeper ties to the pharmaceutical industry than any F.D.A. commissioner in recent memory.” He has an extensive record of close collaboration with pharmaceutical giants, and recently described regulation as a “barrier,” not a safeguard for public health. While he donates his Big Pharma speaking and consulting fees to charity, his lucrative salary at Duke University is directly supported by companies like Merck, Novartis, and Eli Lilly.5

    In fact, in the conflict of interest section of one recent article, Califf admitted to receiving financial support from more than 20 companies.6 No matter how good a doctor he is or how fair he attempts to be, Califf is simply too connected to industry. If he becomes the next head of the FDA, his former sponsors and friends in the pharmaceutical industry will have a friendly ear in a major position of power, threatening our financial well-being and physical health.

    This is exactly how big corporations go about capturing control. It’s no wonder that Sen. Sanders declared that Califf simply wasn’t someone who is “prepared to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies and work to substantially lower drug prices.”7 But reports indicate that President Obama nominated Califf deliberately to avoid a fight with Republicans in the Senate, and that Senate Democrats have yet to line up to oppose him.8 We need a major outcry right now, before it is too late.

    Tell the Senate: No Big Pharma ally as FDA chief.

    Big Pharma deploys armies of lobbyists to increase profits, even at the expense of our safety. The Trans-Pacific Partnership includes years of excessive patent protection for the pharmaceutical industry. Congress has passed multiple bills to speed up FDA approvals, including allowing drug companies to conduct their own tests – even though some estimate that 85-90% of the new drugs on the market since the 1990’s don’t deliver better clinical performance, but simply make money for their creators. And meanwhile, the industry has been wracked with scandals over drug safety and hidden risks.9

    We can’t let Big Pharma get away with installing an industry insider as head of the Federal Drug Administration. The Senate must block this nomination.

    Tell the Senate: No Big Pharma ally as FDA chief.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    1. Sanders, Cummings Introduce Comprehensive Legislation to Lower Soaring Drug Prices.”
    2. Brett Norman and Sarah Karlin, “Pharma's next steps on TPP,” Politico, October 12, 2015.
    3. Sabrina Tavernise, “F.D.A. Nominee Califf’s Ties to Drug Makers Worry Some,” The New York Times, September 19, 2015.
    4. John Wagner, “Bernie Sanders to oppose Obama’s nominee to lead the FDA,” The Washington Post, October 8, 2015.
    5. Tavernise, “F.D.A. Nominee Califf’s Ties to Drug Makers Worry Some.”
    6. Ibid.
    7. Wagner, “Bernie Sanders to oppose Obama’s nominee to lead the FDA.”
    8. Tavernise, “F.D.A. Nominee Califf’s Ties to Drug Makers Worry Some.”
    9. Caroline Beaton, “Holding Big Pharma Accountable: Why Suing the Pharmaceutical Industry Isn't Working,”, October 13, 2015