Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is stepping down after nearly two years leading the agency's response to a host of public health challenges, including the opioid epidemic, rising drug prices, and underage vaping. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced in a statement Tuesday that Gottlieb would leave in a month, the AP reports. President Trump tapped Gottlieb in 2017 to "cut red tape" at the FDA. But Gottlieb bucked expectations by pushing the agency to expand its authorities in several key ways, including an unprecedented effort to make cigarettes less addictive by requiring lower nicotine levels. A physician and former conservative pundit, Gottlieb advanced his agenda while managing to maintain the support of the president, Republicans, and key Democrats in Congress.
Still, he departs with his most sweeping plans unfinished, including the initiative to make cigarettes less addictive. In recent months, he came under fire for not acting more quickly to address an explosion in teenage use of electronic cigarettes. Under Gottlieb, the FDA has emphasized vaping as a potential tool to wean adult smokers off traditional cigarettes. In a widely criticized move, Gottlieb delayed key regulations on those vaping devices until 2022. Anti-smoking groups are now suing the agency to begin reviewing e-cigarettes immediately after the most recent federal data showed that 1 in 5 high school students were using e-cigarettes. While the FDA has taken steps against the vaping industry, including tightening restrictions on e-cigarette sales in convenience stores, it's unclear whether they will be enough to reverse the trend.
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