Dr. Scott Gottlieb is officially the new commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after the Senate confirmed the physician into the job yesterday by a vote of 57 to 42.
Gottlieb, 44, will assume the helm of the $5 billion agency, which employs roughly 15,000 people to regulate drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, food and the premium cigar industry. He will replace Robert Califf, who was appointed last year by President Obama.
The new FDA chief said during his confirmation hearing that he intends to focus his initial efforts on fighting the country's growing opioid abuse problem and streamlining the drug-approval process. Members of the cigar industry, though, are hoping he will also roll back the draconian regulations outlined in the FDA's controversial Final Deeming Rule, and support his confirmation.
President Trump has made it clear on numerous occasions that he would like to see regulations slashed, but he has not specifically called out the Final Deeming Rule. Five years ago, Gottlieb did write an opinion piece for the New York Post criticizing the idea of the FDA regulating handmade cigars.
In that article, he wrote that "the rising use of machine-made cigars by underage smokers has long troubled the FDA. But the new regulation apparently wouldn't clearly distinguish these cheap, small cigars from larger, premium brands smoked by adults."
"During his confirmation process, Dr. Gottlieb repeatedly stressed that he will rely on science and common sense, not ideology, to guide his time as commissioner," said Mark Pursell, chief executive officer of the International Premium Cigars and Pipe Retailers Association, in a statement. "His past statements on then-proposed regulations for our industry further highlight the new viewpoint he will bring to the FDA."
A conservative, Gottlieb previously served as deputy commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs at the FDA from 2005 to 2007, during President George W. Bush's tenure. He received a Doctor of Medicine from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1999, according to a briefing released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary.