Money Issues Surround FDA’s New Commissioner
The Wall Street Journal reports that the new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration is among the wealthiest Obama administration appointees and must divest several stock and fund holdings to take her post. Margaret Hamburg, who was confirmed by the Senate last week, had an income of at least $10 million in 2008, which "came from stocks, money-market accounts, trusts and funds including several affiliated with hedge-fund sponsor Renaissance Technologies." A large portion of Hamburg's wealth came from her husband Peter Fitzhugh Brown, an expert in artificial intelligence who serves as vice president and director of Renaissance Technologies.
The Journal reports that the couple "must divest themselves of several hedge-fund holdings as well as some of Mr. Brown's inherited drug-company stocks"
and that "the couple controls assets worth between $21 million and $40 million." Hamburg is a former New York City health commissioner who served in the Clinton administration. The Journal reports that Hamburg "will forfeit $100,000 to $250,000 in restricted stock and more than 11,000 unvested stock options, all of which have a strike price above market value. She will also have to sell vested stock, valued between $250,000 and $500,000." She is expected to make about $150,000 a year at the FDA (Mundy, 5/26).
Meanwhile, Hamburg and Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, co-authored a piece in The New England Journal of Medicine about the Food and Drug Administration's role as a public health agency. The NEJM describes the FDA's original mission to prevent the "manufacture, sale,or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonousor deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and liquor" and its' growing role in larger public health issues. It describes the agency's role as a protector of public health noting that "the urgent need to develop and produce a vaccine against H1N1influenza virus provides an illustration of the agency's publichealth role." The piece also examines issues of speed, communication, interagency cooperation and challenges posed by globalization in regards to large public health concerns (Hamburg and Sharfstein, 5/26).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.