Senator Bernie Sanders has put the brakes on President Obama’s pick to be the new commissioner of the FDA, because Obama’s choice could quite possibly be the worst selection imaginable

His pick, Dr. Robert Califf, is the former professor of cardiology at Duke University, where he led a research department that was funded by Big Pharma.  On top of conducting medical research on Big Pharma’s dime, Dr. Califf was also a paid consultant for drug companies including Eli Lily, Merck, and Novartis.  That’s a very cozy relationship with pharmaceutical industry considering that they’ve funded the man’s entire career.

Here’s the short list of Dr. Califf’s accomplishments on behalf of Big Pharma:

  • He’s been an outspoken critic of regulations on the drug industry
  • He’s said that the FDA is too slow to approve new drugs
  • He thinks testing requirements are too strict for drug companies
  • He helped fund two separate drug company startups

He says that collusion between the industry and government is the wave of the future.

The FDA already relies on testing performed and funded by the drug companies for 60% of their approvals.  This means that the agency is already letting big pharma police itself, and that’s exactly what Dr. Califf wants more of.  And the criteria that they use was created in the 1960’s and hasn’t been updated to keep pace with modern medicine.

More than 100,000 people die every year from taking prescription drugs as directed.  That doesn’t include the numbers of people who overdose or mix medications – that’s the number of people who die every single year from drug side effects.

Here’s the problem – we don’t need another industry insider serving with the Obama administration.  Think about Eric Holder.  He came from a corporate defense law firm where he represented the big banks, and then he refused to take white collar crime seriously when he was at the DOJ.  Having an industry insider at the FDA is an even worse scenario because we’re talking about people’s lives here.  If his relationship with the industry makes him give approval for even one dangerous drug, he could be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens.

Is it worth it?  Absolutely not.  But this is Obama’s legacy.  And this is why voters are falling have fallen in love with people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, because they have the courage to speak out against the corporate-political revolving door.  And that’s what we need in a leader now – someone that isn’t afraid to say no to corporations, and it doesn’t appear that Obama is ready to fight back against corporate power.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced