Trump's HHS cabinet pick went to bat for major industry donors

Dive Brief:

  • Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), president-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, queried the Food and Drug Administration 38 times in the past decade on behalf of drug and medical device company constituents, Kaiser Health News reported.
  • The issues he intervened about ranged from the availability of heart valves in pediatric surgeries to an ingredient in pain creams, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
  • Price has also aided companies that financially supported his campaigns and political action committees.

Dive Insight:

“It looks like he’s somebody who could throw the store open to a lot of niche special interests,” Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University, told KHN. “These are things that fly under the radar. If you take a meat ax to Medicare, for example, everybody would know about it. But this kind of stuff is done in the dark of night.”

An orthopedic surgeon, Price currently chairs the House Budget Committee and has been a staunch advocate for repeal of the Affordable Care Act. His replacement plan, the Empowering Patients First Act, would provide Americans with tax credits to “purchase health coverage that are based on an individual’s age instead of income.” He has also introduced legislation to curb malpractice lawsuits and protect traveling doctor companies from taxes in other states.

A long-time critic of government spending, Price strove to ensure a steady stream of federal dollars for his major backers, KHN’s Marisa Taylor and Christina Jewett write. Last May, he introduced legislation to delay Medicare cuts for durable medical equipment. And in September, he introduced a bill to delay a Medicare program aimed at reducing healthcare fraud by requiring review of home health claims prior to payment.

In 2009, he pressed the FDA to review a constituent’s sperm analysis device, saying the company should be exempted from conducting a clinical trial because it would be “impossible to pass.” And recently, his staff asked went to bat for a company trying to get capsaicin palmitate on a list of products approve for use in pain creams.

Reports that Price bought and sold healthcare stocks while working on legislation affecting the industry have also raised a red flag. According to KHN, Price recently bought between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of stock in Australian drugmaker Immunotherapeutics, which plans to seek FDA approval of its multiple sclerosis drug. 

Filed Under: Policy & Regulation
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