Senator Bernie Sanders is standing up to President Obama’s pick to head the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert Califf.  Senator Sanders cites serious doubts about Califf’s commitment in standing against the excesses of Big Pharma:

At a time when millions of Americans cannot afford to purchase the prescription drugs they need, we need a new leader at the FDA who is prepared to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies and work to substantially lower drug prices. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that Dr. Califf is not that person.

Senator Sanders has valid reasons for that conclusion. As reported here at The Ring of Fire last month, Dr. Califf, despite his credentials, has long had a cozy relationship with several major players in the pharmaceutical industry. As Professor of Cardiology at Duke University, Califf’s salary was underwritten by a number of large pharmaceutical firms.

Over a six-year period between 2009 and 2015, Dr. Califf was paid over $200,000 in “consulting fees.” Part of that involved the approval of a dangerous anti-coagulant medication known as rivaroxaban, sold by Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceutica under the brand name Xarelto®. That drug has been implicated in a high number of deaths and injuries due to uncontrolled bleeding, and is the cause of action in a growing number of lawsuits. Califf was one of the principal investigators and co-chairman for the clinical trial for the drug – which just happened to be financed by the manufacturer.

All of this justifies Sanders’ concerns that Dr. Califf is not qualified to represent the interests of consumers at the FDA. Senator Sanders will be up against serious opposition, considering the astronomical sums of money that Big Pharma pours into lobbying and bribes – that is, “campaign contributions” – to lawmakers. Nonetheless, Sanders opposition to this blatantly corporatist nominee comes at a time when political candidates across the board are being forced to take more Progressive positions on a number of issues. Sanders’ presidential bid has been getting more traction than anyone could have predicted – and it’s something that even President Obama cannot ignore. Voters on both sides are making it abundantly clear that they are sick and tired of unresponsive government beholden to corporate interests.

As Senator Sanders’ concerns over Califf’s nomination to head the FDA becomes more widely known, it’s a good bet that members of Congress will be hearing from constituents who have been gouged and harmed by Big Pharma for too long. Make sure your Representatives and Senators hear from you: call (202) 224-3121, ask for your member of Congress by name, and let the staffer know that having another corporate lapdog in charge of a federal regulatory agency is not acceptable.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.