That was unexpected, including to his FDA colleagues, apparently.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned today from his post, an administration official tells the Washington Post, adding that Gottlieb will relinquish the office in one month.
Unlike many people who leave the Trump Administration, the resignation wasn’t sought out or expected, reports the Post, which notes Gottlieb has recently hired senior staff and been actively and aggressively dividing into new initiatives.
In fact, while Gottlieb has since tweeted a statement from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, commending Gottlieb as an “exemplar public health leader,” he was earlier today retweeting an interview he’d given on air with CNBC this morning in which he said the FDA was putting 15 national retailers on notice for allegedly selling tobacco products and e-cigs to minors.
He also today pointed his Twitter followers to newly released guidance by the FDA around new steps it’s taking to protect Americans from intentionally adulterated food products.
According to the official who spoke with the Post, Gottlieb has tired of commuting to Washington from his home in Westport, Ct., and wants to spend more time with his family, including his wife and three young daughters.
Still, the timing seems odd, particularly given Gottlieb’s very public, and unfinished, fight against vaping, which has become one of the hallmarks of his time as FDA Commissioner. Indeed, beginning last spring, Gottlieb began ringing the alarm bells on e-cigarettes and their fast spread among underage users after earlier delaying regulations that could have removed many of their products from the market.
At a public hearing in January, Gottlieb warned that levels of e-cig use among young people is reaching new heights, with vaping rates nearly doubling among high school students between 2017 and 2018.
Tobacco stocks have already risen on the news. One suspects that execs at the privately held company Juul, which has been a specific target of Gottlieb given its popularity with young users and is now roughly one-third owned by tobacco giant Altria Group, are also breathing a sigh of relief at news of his resignation.
Gottlieb was nominated by Donald Trump to serve in his current post almost exactly two years ago, though he’d worked as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs from 2005 to 2007. In between, Gottlieb, a trained physician, was a venture capitalist focused on healthcare investing with the firm New Enterprise Associates, which happens to be closing its biggest fund ever right now.