Thursday, February 25, 2016

Who safe-guards the public?

Robert Califf has been approved by the Senate as the next FDA commissioner reinforcing the impression of those who say the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street profiteers make money at the expense of public health.

Califf, chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke University until recently, received money from 23 drug companies including the giants like Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Merck, Schering Plough and GSK according to a disclosure statement on the website of Duke Clinical Research Institute. Not merely receiving research funds, Califf also served as a high level Pharma officer, say press reports. Medscape, the medical website, discloses that Califf “served as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for Genentech.” Portola Pharmaceuticals says Califf served on its board of directors until leaving for the FDA. Califf also lists financial links to Gambro, Regeneron, Gilead, AstraZeneca, Roche and other companies and equity positions in four medical companies. Gilead is the maker of the $1000-a-pill hepatitis C drug.

He is known for defending Vioxx which is reported to have caused at least 50,000 heart attacks and events before its withdrawal. (Merck is said to have known about Vioxx’ cardio effects but marketed the blockbuster drug anyway.) Califf was instrumental in the Duke drug trial of the blood thinner Xarelto and a cheerleader of the drug despite medical experts’ objections to its approval and 379 subsequent deaths. Xarelto's serious and foreseeable risks were back in the news this week. Duke, where Califf directed clinical research, is still recovering from a major research fraud scandal that resulted in terminated grants, retracted papers and a "60 Minutes" special.

Califf is a Big Pharma cheerleader, “Many of us consult with the pharmaceutical industry, which I think is a very good thing.” Califf's confirmation amounts to a handover of the FDA to Big Pharma. He has been groomed and promoted because of his willingness to promote the interests of his benefactors in the drug industry and their investors on Wall Street. He is a Trojan Horse.

Nor is this an isolated case of Big Business entering and controlling government policy.
 USDA head Roger Beachy, a former director at Monsanto,
FDA food safety czar Michael Taylor, one-time vice president for public policy at Monsanto,
Commissioner of the USDA Tom Vilsack who created the Governors' Biotechnology Partnership. Under President Obama, 10 new GM crops have been approved for 'safe consumption.'

From here 

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