Does Trump’s pick for DHHS have stronger ties to Big Pharma than even Mitch Zeller?

When President-Elect Donald Trump first announced Rep. Tom Price as his nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the immediate reaction within the vaping industry was rather positive.  However, the Georgia Congressman is drawing new criticism in recent days for potential conflicts of interest after it was discovered that he traded stocks in both Big Pharma and Big Tobacco while working on Capitol Hill.

As Secretary of the DHHS, one of Price’s chief responsibilities would be to oversee the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency responsible for the newly announced FDA deeming regulations that threaten to bankrupt the American vaping industry.  Since Price has had a long history as a vocal opponent of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, many in the vaping industry were initially hopeful that Price would overturn this Obama-driven legislation that essentially grants the FDA full authority to regulate e-cigs as tobacco products.

With new information surfacing this week from a Wall Street Journal report regarding the Congressman’s strong ties to Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, vaping advocacy groups are now questioning the Price nomination with a bit more cynicism.   Will Price recommend to Donald Trump to overturn the FDA deeming regulations?  Or will he want to keep them in place to benefit his former allies from the nearly 40 pharmaceutical, biomedical, and tobacco companies from which he has profited since 2012?

Mitch Zeller of the FDA also had strong ties to Big Pharma

Mitch Zeller is the current director of the Center for Tobacco Products, a new branch of the FDA that was created from the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.  He has long been accused by the U.S. vaping industry of spreading false information and trumped-up scientific research that intentionally demonize vaping to financially benefit both Big Tobacco and Big Pharma.

Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, prior to working for the FDA, Zeller was employed by the major pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturer of more traditional nicotine replacement therapies like “the patch” and nicotine gum.  To vaping advocacy groups, Mitch Zeller’s appointment by President Obama to spearhead the new branch of the FDA is a huge conflict of interest.

How can the vaping industry get a fair deal when the guy writing the deeming regulations comes from Big Pharma, the very group of companies that wants to eliminate the vaping industry once and for all?

This may be the very same question that vapers will be asking themselves in the coming months, should Rep. Tom Price be approved by Congress to become Secretary of the DHHS.  If the Wall Street Journal report is to be believed, Price has stronger ties to Big Pharma than even Mitch Zeller.

Tom Price also traded in Big Tobacco stocks

Meanwhile, Price also traded in Big Tobacco stocks while in the House of Representatives.  One of his biggest financial windfalls came from trading Altria Group stocks, a tobacco company whose products are heavily regulated by the FDA.  Perhaps even more strange, the Altria Group has also acquired former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh) as the new Class II Director of the company’s Corporate Governance, Nominating, and Sustainability Committee.

But Price’s largest single transaction of all time came from an August 2016 purchase of stocks in a biomedical company Innate Immunotherapeutics Inc.  His initial investment of between $50,000 to $100,000 in stock has since more than doubled in value in the less than four short months since the transaction took place.

While Donald Trump ran his election campaign on promises to “drain the swamp,” many in the vaping industry are growing ever more fearful that the “swamp” is simply being restocked with more cunning creatures of corruption than ever before imagined.

Article Credit: Matt Rowland

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