WASHINGTON — Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, will resign in one month, the Trump administration announced Tuesday.
Gottlieb had served as FDA chief since May 2017.
The 46-year-old doctor was among President Trump’s most popular appointees. While some Democrats initially questioned his ties to conservative groups and the pharmaceutical industry during his confirmation, Gottlieb quickly won respect from lawmakers of both parties.
In Gottlieb’s resignation letter, which the FDA shared with STAT, the commissioner did not explain why he plans to leave the agency.
“Over the past 23 months, I’ve been privileged to work with an outstanding team at the Food and Drug Administration, and to collaborate with the professional staff on implementation of many meaningful incentives that have advanced the public health,” Gottlieb wrote. “I’m fortunate for the opportunity that the President of the United States afforded me to lead this outstanding team, at this time, in this period of wonderful scientific advances.”
In a tweet, Trump credited Gottlieb with helping to lower prescription drug prices and working toward the approval of generic drugs.
….Scott has helped us to lower drug prices, get a record number of generic drugs approved and onto the market, and so many other things. He and his talents will be greatly missed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2019
During Gottlieb’s tenure, the FDA repeatedly broke its annual records for approving generic drugs. As the Trump administration increasingly focused on the high cost of prescription drugs, Gottlieb emerged alongside health secretary Alex Azar as a powerful voice within the administration.
Like Trump and Azar, Gottlieb often took an aggressive tone with drug manufacturers, decrying their “shenanigans” and publicly shaming companies that tried to prevent competitors from bringing new drugs to market.
Gottlieb also took a lead role in addressing the opioid crisis, taking steps to encourage use of medication-assisted treatment for addiction and cracking down on illicit internet drug sale.
Gottlieb also took on the issue of tobacco use perhaps more than any FDA commissioner since David Kessler, who led the effort in 1990s for FDA to begin regulating tobacco. Gottlieb’s effort to restrict flavored tobacco, including menthol, ruffled feathers among Republican lawmakers, most notably Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C). The agency has proposed restricting flavored nicotine products to prevent teenage use, and banning menthol cigarettes.
Rumors about Gottlieb’s departure had swirled for months. In January, he wrote on Twitter: “I want to be very clear — I’m not leaving. We’ve got a lot important policy we’ll advance this year.”
Azar said in a statement that he would “personally miss working” alongside Gottlieb.
“He has been an exemplary public health leader, aggressive advocate for American patients, and passionate promoter of innovation,” he added.
The news was first reported by The Washington Post.
Matt Herper contributed reporting.