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Grubby Gottlieb

Ex-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes about vaping in the Wall Street journal, then suddenly announces he is joining be joining the board of directors at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer

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The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ex-Commissioner started the job with collective hopes he would bring a dose of common sense due to his background with an ecig company. His tenure went rapidly downhill and now, with the announcement he is to sit on Pfizer’s board of directors, he joins a huge list of ex-FDA employees who have feathered their nests with post in the pharmaceutical industry.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Gottlieb says: “Electronic cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but they aren’t safe. There’s evidence they can damage the lungs, and they’re also a path to nicotine addiction.”

It’s a skewed viewpoint that disappointed many while he was in office. Then he demonstrates a wholesale lack of awareness: “Policies I advanced as FDA commissioner aimed to get smokers off cigarettes and onto less-harmful forms of nicotine delivery.”

Next, Gottlieb invents his own facts: “Medicinal products such as gum and patches are so safe they can be bought over the counter without a doctor’s prescription. E-cigs are somewhere in the middle.”

The one positive is his belief that open systems (mods and attys) should be treated differently to closed systems like pod devices: “open systems are primarily used by adults while disposable closed systems like JUUL are favoured by minors.”

This poses the question, why didn’t he do this when he was able to?

The Independent Women’s Forum commented: “Scott Gottlieb could have set the tone at the FDA by encouraging agency regulators to take a nuanced approach to Ecigs. He didn’t, and made life harder for smokers trying to quit. His Wall Street Journal piece asking for a measured approach to regulation comes a little too late.”

Dr Peter Rost is a former vice president of Pfizer and a whistleblower of the pharmaceutical industry. He talks about how Big Pharma uses its money in this video:

Of course, it now serves Gottlieb’s purpose to differentiate tobacco company products (mainly closed systems) from the independent sector (mainly open systems). It became evident when he announced: “I’m honoured to be joining the board of directors of Pfizer and working together with more than 90,000 Pfizer colleagues to promote medical innovation, advance patient care, and secure access to better healthcare outcomes for families around the world.”

Harm reduction expert Clive Bates responded: “So when did Scott Gottlieb MD start talks with Pfizer, maker of the anti-nicotine drug Varenicline? Where does this leave his recent tirades on vaping (a better way to quit smoking)? Did he tell the Wall Street Journal about this conflict before it printed his bizarre vaping op-ed this week?”

Sydney Lupkin wrote about how FDA employees go through the “revolving door” to Big Pharma in 2016 [link]: “Former FDA employees with deep knowledge of the approval process can help make it go smoother by ensuring all the relevant research is complete and that the latest pathways to approval are understood.”

Who would be surprised if Pfizer go on to release their own open-system?

*Edit - since the aerticle was written, Gottlieb has been called upon to resign his post. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that the ex-FDA chief joining Pfizer’s board "smacks of corruption" [link]


  • Gottlieb’s WSJ article – [link]
  • “A Look At How The Revolving Door Spins From FDA To Industry” by Sydney Lupkin – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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