Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Friday he will not support Dr. Robert Califf to again serve as Food and Drug Administration commissioner, calling the nomination "an insult to the many families and individuals who have had their lives changed forever as a result of addiction."
President Joe Biden earlier in the day announced that he would nominate former FDA Commissioner Califf to again lead the powerful regulatory agency.
Manchin wasted little time expressing opposition to Califf, who led the FDA during the final 11 months of the Obama administration. The senator’s biggest issue with the selection has to do with the cardiologist’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
"Dr. Califf's nomination makes no sense as the opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc on families across this country with no end in sight. 2020 was the deadliest year on record for drug related overdose deaths with 1,386 West Virginians and nearly 95,000 Americans dying from a drug related overdose," Manchin said in his statement.
"I have made it abundantly clear that correcting the culture at the FDA is critical to changing the tide of the opioid epidemic. Instead, Dr. Califf's nomination and his significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry take us backwards not forward. His nomination is an insult to the many families and individuals who have had their lives changed forever as a result of addiction. I could not support Dr. Califf's nomination in 2016, and I cannot support it now.
"I urge the Administration to nominate an FDA commissioner that understands the gravity of the prescription drug epidemic and the role of the FDA in fighting back against the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Championing the needs of our nation’s public health must be their number one priority."
Califf, who was granted tenure as professor of cardiology at Duke University School of Medicine, worked very closely with pharmaceutical companies as founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute.
Califf has consulted for several pharmaceutical firms, including Merck and Eli Lilly, The Washington Post reported.
Manchin was one of three Democrat senators and four senators overall to vote against Califf's nomination in 2016.
Janet Woodcock, former head of the FDA's powerful Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, has been acting commissioner since January.
Initially, a top contender for the nomination, Woodcock was opposed by a handful of Democrats led by Manchin, who attacked her for what he viewed as the agency’s lax approach to opioids, the Post reported.
The FDA regulates the vaccines, drugs, and tests used to combat COVID-19. That’s on top of its normal duties regulating a swath of consumers goods and medicines, including prescription drugs, medical devices, tobacco products, cosmetics, and most foods.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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