He must be one of the most famous people in America – a leading cardiologist who married his beloved since childhood and now runs one of the largest health agencies in the world.
But Robert Caliph became the number one enemy with parents across the country because of his role in the child mix crisis.
In February, the 71-year-old doctor was reinstated as FDA commissioner and Abbott Laboratories in Michigan was immediately closed.
This has led to one of the most severe infant formula deficiencies ever seen in the US – and it looks like it will continue for several more months.
This is not the first time Caliph has joined the controversy, he has been criticized for “closing his eyes” on the Opioid crisis and earning millions on Big Pharma.
He has also found enemies on both sides of politics, and Democrats and Republicans hate him for giving up public service to make money in the private sector.
In February, Joe Biden reinstated Caliph as FDA commissioner, who previously held the role from 2015 to 2017 under Barack Obama.
Since then, he has become known throughout the country through the agency’s failures during the baby formula crisis.
Yesterday, he claimed that a key Abbott site in Michigan would reopen within the next few weeks, but the firm said it had not yet been given the green light.
Robert Caliph became the number one enemy with parents across the country because of his role in the child mix crisis
The Caliphs live in a $ 700,000 home in Durham, North Carolina, near the research institute he ran.
This graph shows how quickly the nationwide crisis has worsened. The scale of the crisis is revealed in a new analysis, which shows that only 43 percent of the usual national supply of infant formula is available
The latest controversy over the head of health began after the FDA investigated the Abbott facility in Sturgis, Michigan, amid reports that the baby formula produced there may be contaminated.
The owners of the plant, Abbott Laboratories, withdrew their products and in February decided to close the plant pending further inspections.
They have since stressed that the link between the two deaths and their plant has not been revealed. But the company is waiting for FDA approval to resume production – and it could take another ten weeks before the products will be back on the shelves.
Caliph is in the spotlight for the delay, and many are wondering if it took so long.
Abbott Laboratories has reached a deal with the FDA that could allow it to resume operations in just two weeks. The plant shut down in February after the FDA discovered numerous violations at the facility
The shortage of formulas is the result of supply chain failures and labor problems, but it has been exacerbated by the plant’s recall of safety formulas.
Prior to returning to the FDA, a health expert was already seen in some circles as controversial.
He was first appointed by FDA Chief Barack Obama – a role he held from February 2016 until the end of Obama’s administration.
Questions were quickly asked about his connections in the industry – his predecessor, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, a former senior health official in New York, came from the public health field.
Efforts have been made to reassure people, and the Obama administration has stressed that since the mid-2000s, Caliph has donated all his fees for consulting nonprofits.
According to data available to The New York Times from PharmaShine, the health care payments database, and the federal government’s open payments database, Caliph received about $ 215,000 in consultation fees from 2009 to early 2015.
A political appointee, he left when the president resigned before heading to the parent company Google Alphabet to earn his millions.
Robert and Lydia Calif – who met at a high school in South Carolina
He was paid $ 2.7 million from Verily Life Sciences, a biomedical research organization run by Alphabet, and $ 1 million to $ 5 million in stock from his role as head of clinical policy and strategy.
He has also served on the boards of two pharmaceutical companies, AmyriAD and Centessa Pharmaceuticals PLC.
The South Carolina-born medic has reported links with 16 other research organizations and biotech companies, according to ethics and financial information.
“For people like Robert Caliph, every time they walk through the door, they can demand higher salaries from the private sector,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the Public Citizen consumer rights group.
“It’s a paycheck operation on a revolver.”
When Biden nominated Caliph for second place at the helm of the FDA, his lucrative work in the major pharmaceutical industry turned many against him.
Ed Markie, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, was not impressed by Caliph’s inability to do more to stop the opioid epidemic.
Markie said the FDA has repeatedly stamped new prescription opioids that increased the risk of misuse and dependence and failed to limit the widespread availability of these drugs, acted too slowly to remove them from the market or impose restrictions on their labels, and continued approve potent new opioids either through blatant objections from their advisory committees or without convening an advisory committee at all. ”
Robert Caliph was spotted in May 2016, shortly after his first appointment as FDA Commissioner
He met with Caliph in December 2021 to discuss his concerns as to why no more had been done.
But he left dissatisfied and refused to approve his candidacy for president – also refused to approve it in 2016.
“During our meeting, Dr. Caliph did not take the decisive and comprehensive action needed to ensure the reforms that the FDA under his leadership implements in the field of opioid regulation,” Markie said in a letter to acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock.
“After years of agency failures and in the midst of a worsening opioid epidemic, we need FDA leadership that is fully committed to using all of the agency’s powers for health care.
“We continue to live with the effects of the FDA’s inability to effectively regulate opioids.
“I remain concerned that the agency has not done enough to consider or reform its processes for reviewing these supercharged painkillers.”
Another who voted against him, for the same reasons, was Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia.
“I have made it very clear that correcting culture at the FDA is crucial to changing the course of the opioid epidemic,” Manchin said shortly after Caliph was nominated.
In August 2016, Caliph was seen alongside Joe Manchin. Manchin refused to vote for him as FDA head of Biden
“Instead, Dr. Caliph’s nomination and his significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry are driving us not backward but backward.”
A third Democrat, Senator Richard Blumenthal, who represented Connecticut, also opposed the nomination of Caliph based on his ties to the industry.
And Bernie Sanders has become one of Caliph’s most vocal opponents, saying he fears he is too soft on a major formation.
“I am disappointed that Dr. Caliph has been confirmed as the new FDA commissioner,” he said in February this year after Caliph voted 50 to 46.
“I opposed his nomination because I wasn’t sure he resisted the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, one of Washington’s most powerful special interests.
“In my opinion, it is unacceptable for the American people to pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
“At a time when one in five Americans cannot afford to pay for their prescription drugs, we must do everything we can to reduce the rapidly rising prices of prescription drugs.
“The rescue drug is of no use if the sick patient cannot afford it.”
Between jobs at the FDA, Caliph worked at Duke University in North Carolina before retiring in November 2019.
He was a full professor and founding director of the Duke Institute for Clinical Research, part of Duke University School of Medicine and the world’s largest organization of academic clinical research.
The institute received more than 60 percent funding from industry.
Caliph is believed to live in Durham, a four-bedroom, $ 700,000 four-bedroom home with his wife, Lydia, whom he met at a high school in Columbia, South Carolina.
The couple has three children: Sharon, Sam and Tom.