Scott Gottlieb’s tenure as FDA commissioner was profoundly anti-vaping until his somewhat abrupt departure in April this year. Any fears that he would have time on his hands were immediately allayed, however, when he walked into a new job with Big Pharma.
It was in July that Gottlieb joined leading biopharmaceutical company Pfizer. His seat on the board comes with generous remuneration: an annual minimum of $335,000 in salary and stock options. Gottlieb is certainly confident in Pfizer’s future trading, given his purchase just this week of over $100,000 of its shares.
Pfizer has a significant market interest in smoking cessation, manufacturing the Nicotrol NRT device and a prescription medication, Champix. They will have found Gottlieb’s statement on NRT in February most encouraging, given his glowing recommendation for its use. Wherever vaping was (rarely) mentioned in a positive light, it was as a medical device and not a consumer product.
With the NHS confirming in January that vaping is twice as effective as traditional NRT for smoking-cessation, companies such as Pfizer may understandably worry for the future sales of their products. Fortuitously for them, institutions such as the FDA continue to provide public support for Big Pharma, as well as members for their boards.
This cosy institutional arrangement may seem suspect, but it is bizarrely common in the USA. Of the previous 10 FDA commissioners, nine have subsequently been employed by pharmaceutical companies, such as Johnson and Johnson.
While harm-reduction is side-lined, the revolving door spins on.