FDA nominee Dr. Scott Gottlieb's confirmation hearing: 6 things to know

Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee grilled Scott Gottlieb, MD, with questions on his ties to the pharmaceutical industry, the opioid epidemic and more, during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

President Donald Trump nominated Dr. Gottlieb to lead the Food and Drug Administration in March.

Here are six things to know about the hearing.

1. A large portion of the hearing focused on his extensive relationship with the drug industry. Dr. Gottlieb signed an ethics agreement last week, vowing to step down from his board positions, divest his interests in healthcare companies and recluse himself from any regulatory matters involving companies he has direct connections to for one year. During the hearing, Dr. Gottlieb said he would take even more steps to make sure his decisions at the FDA would not be compromised by his past ties to the industry. "I want to earn and keep the public's trust," Dr. Gottlieb said during the hearing. "I recognize the importance of bringing impartiality to this role."

2. Dr. Gottlieb did not give a straight answer when asked to share his thoughts on drug importation. While President Donald Trump seems open to working with Democratic lawmakers about drug importation legislation, Dr. Gottlieb has previously opposed the measure. When asked if he opposes importing cheaper drugs from foreign countries, he said, "I can tell you I have a lot of ideas that I want to work on right away on how I think we can get more product competition onto the market."

3. He reaffirmed his goal to increase the amount of generic drugs approved. Dr. Gottlieb said the FDA needs to implement new laws and regulatory processes to speed up generic drug approvals, particularly those for more expensive, complex drugs. "I think there are ways to modernize clinical studies without sacrificing the gold standard [of safety and efficacy]," he said.

4. Dr. Gottlieb the opioid epidemic would be his "highest and most immediate priority." He told the committee the epidemic is a "public health emergency on the order of Ebola and Zika" that requires dramatic action from the FDA. "[T]o address it now, the types of actions that we are going to need to take are going to be more dramatic, perhaps, than the types of actions we would have taken 10 years ago," Dr. Gottlieb said.

5. He denied any connection between vaccines and autism. Dr. Gottlieb called the issue "one of the most exhaustively studied questions in medical history," before saying, "There is no plausible link between vaccines and autism. At some point, we have to accept 'no' for an answer."

6. The Senate committee will not vote on Dr. Gottlieb's nomination for at least two weeks, according to Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Watch the full hearing here.

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