Manchin opposes Biden FDA nominee, citing ties to 'greed' of pharmaceutical industry

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Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia came out in opposition to President Biden’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the candidate’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry amid the opioid crisis.

Manchin released a statement on Friday opposing Biden’s FDA nominee, Robert Califf, who led the agency at the tail end of the Obama administration.

The moderate Democrat from West Virginia said that Califf’s nomination “makes no sense” amid the opioid epidemic still ravaging America and wreaking “havoc on families across this country with no end in sight.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., delivers remarks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Nov. 1, 2021.
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

The senator also blasted the nominee for his ties to the pharmaceutical industry, which has been credited by many with playing a major role in exacerbating the opioid epidemic.

“2020 was the deadliest year on record for drug related overdose deaths, with 1,386 and nearly 95,000 Americans dying from a drug-related overdose,” Manchin said. “I have made it abundantly clear that correcting the culture at the FDA is critical to changing the tide of the opioid epidemic.”

“Instead, Dr. Califf’s nomination and his significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry take us backwards not forward,” the West Virginia Democrat continued. “His nomination is an insult to the many families and individuals who have had their lives changed forever as a result of addiction.”

Manchin said he “could not support” Califf’s nomination just as he was opposed to the former commissioner’s previous 2016 nomination and called on the Biden administration to put up a nominee “that understands the gravity of the prescription drug epidemic” as well as the FDA’s role “in fighting back against the greed of the pharmaceutical industry.”

“Championing the needs of our nation’s public health should be their No. 1 priority,” Manchin concluded.

Dr. Robert Califf awaits the start of his nomination hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Nov. 17, 2015, in Washington, D.C. 
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Biden is expected to announce Califf’s nomination later on Friday, almost 10 months into the president’s term.

Because acting commissioners may only serve for a certain amount of time, Biden was nearing the deadline for when he would be forced to name a replacement for acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock. She’s held the position since Biden was inaugurated. 

“Dr. Robert Califf is one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country, and has the experience and expertise to lead the Food and Drug Administration during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic,” Biden said in a statement Friday announcing the nomination.

“As the FDA considers many consequential decisions around vaccine approvals and more, it is mission critical that we have a steady, independent hand to guide the FDA. I am confident Dr. Califf will ensure that the FDA continues its science and data driven decision-making. Dr. Califf had strong bipartisan support in the Senate in 2016, and I urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Dr. Califf so he can continue the important work being done at this critical moment.”

The White House did not provide comment on Manchin’s opposition to Califf’s nomination.

Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed reporting.

Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene.

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