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How Will New FDA Boss Treat Vaping? Conflict Of Interest?

By Matt McConnell

Monday April 10, 2017
new fda boss gottlieb stance on electronic cigarettes
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The new President has nominated Scot Gottlieb to lead the FDA. According to reports, Gottlieb was one of the recommendations of Trump supporter and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. Their is noted for some controversial statements such as freedom was lost when women gained the vote. But Thiel is also a staunch libertarian who does not believe in regulation. Pretty much any regulation! So where is Scott Gottlieb on the scale?

Scott Gottlieb is a medical physician. He has been working in venture capital. As part of his work he has also been a consultant for Big Pharma and various medical instrument companies. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, regulations dictated that patients be able to access how much money their doctor was receiving from Big Pharma. A Pro Publica website lets you track the numbers. This was helpful for people who want to know how much their doctor was getting to promote a certain medication. The idea was to curtail over prescribing and for transparency.

Well Dr. Gottleib pulled in $414K over 16 months. That’s a lot of money from pharmaceutical and medical device interests. It would stand to reason that those interests would be against vapor products. They want smokers using big pharma or medical devices to quit smoking. So that may be reason for concern regarding enforcement of the already enacted FDA electronic cigarette regulations. But, for vapers, there is also reason for optimism.

Gottlieb To Guide FDA Toward Easing Regulation

In line with the philosophies of Peter Thiel and the zest for deregulation of Trump and the Republicans, Dr. Gottlieb is by all accounts eager to ease FDA regulations. The idea is to be able to get more drugs to market more quickly. And more medical devices. So will this mean that Big Pharma will wield all the power? We hope not. But we cannot be naive and assume that vaping interests will enjoy an equal prioritization of pharmaceutical or medical device interests.

There may be pressure for Gottlieb to maintain the current oppressive regulation. But as for Dr. Gottleib’s personal opinion on vapor products, he best expressed those in a 2013 Forbes article. In that article, Dr. Gottlieb supported a reasonable path forward for vapor products. He wrote of smoking alternatives like e-cigs as a public health virtue able to reduce disease.Dr. Gottlieb warned about regulations that would hurt the industry’s ability to offer less harmful alternatives. Unfortunately, the current FDA e-cigarette regulations will do just that.

So two reasons for optimism here. First, the overall directive of reducing regulation in general. To reduce the FDA’s influence over private business. A more libertarian approach to enabling business to offer choice to consumers. Second, Dr. Gottlieb’s recognition and support of tobacco alternatives. Like Churchill said, you might as well be an optimist because there’s not much use being anything else.

Conflict Of Interest

I recognize there is a line here somewhere but I don’t know where that line needs to be drawn. – Scott Gottlieb On E-Cig Flavors

That brings us to the last point of possible confusion. This is another half full or half empty variable. Dr. Gottlieb actually owns an interest in a vaping franchise company. A very good sign right? I think so. He sees vaping as part of the future and is betting his own dollars on that. Unfortunately, if he doesn’t fully divest he may be accused of conflict of interest. Will that influence his stance? Here’s the issue.

During Gottlieb’s conformation hearing, he was asked about possibly banning flavored vapor products. He replied that he would have to consult with experts and look at the data. A Senator asked him about flavors like “gummy bear” and “cookies and cream”. To which Dr. Gottlieb replied “I recognize there is a line here somewhere but I don’t know where that line needs to be drawn.”

Basically he is not taking e-cigarette or e-liquid flavor bans off the table. At least not in his hearings. Dr. Gottlieb has said that he will divest his interest in a vapor franchise.

Could it be that Dr. Gottlieb is playing a middle position for the sake of a conformation hearing and then will go full libertarian once installed as FDA head? That is certainly possible. I believe there is reason for vapers to be optimistic because despite all the confusion, there are two constants.

  1. Scott Gottlieb is open to vapor. He even was involved in the business.
  2. The over arching goal is to lessen FDA regulation.

Vapers Still Have HR 2058 To Hope For, Too

The future FDA head’s position on vaping is not yet known. We can be hopeful about the positive signs. Chances are there will be a change of some sort. If overall FDA restrictions are eased then that could include good news for smokers looking for alternative options to be smoke free. But, we can’t just sit back and hope that Scott Gottlieb saves vaping. We can still act because HR 2058 is very much alive.

Fight For Your Right To Vape

 

The Cole-Bishop amendment has 77 co-sponsors including members of both political parties. HR 2058 is part of the proposed budget bill and is in play right now. You can still help by contacting your representative and asking them to support HR 2058. HR 2058 has been around for a long time now. We have been waiting for the moment that it may come to a vote and that moment may finally be here. Your voice matters now more than ever.

Team ECCR

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