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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb Says He'll Leave The Agency Next Month

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The head of the Food and Drug Administration has been known recently for taking on the tobacco industry, but Dr. Scott Gottlieb is leaving the agency next month, he says, to spend more time with his wife and young children. Here's NPR's Alison Kodjak.

ALISON KODJAK, BYLINE: Gottlieb faced a great deal of skepticism when he was appointed to the FDA because he came from the pharmaceutical industry. But he went on to be an aggressive regulator of the tobacco industry, and he's used his public platform, along with his agency's limited powers, to try to bring down drug prices. David Mitchell is the founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs.

DAVID MITCHELL: Scott Gottlieb looked at his authority and tried to do a number of things within his authority that would lower drug prices, and in that regard, he's been a standout in the administration.

KODJAK: The FDA doesn't have any direct power over drug prices, but Gottlieb sped up approval of generics. And during his two years at FDA, the agency approved more than 1,400 generic drugs, the most ever.

MITCHELL: Scott Gottlieb took steps to try and speed generics to market, to try and stop practices of brand companies that block generics from coming to market. He stood up against the practice of brand drug companies using citizen petitions to delay generics from coming to market.

KODJAK: Perhaps his biggest target, though, was the tobacco industry, says Gregg Haifley with the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network.

GREGG HAIFLEY: He had a number of aggressive and visionary proposals, including reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes to below addictive levels and eliminating menthol flavoring of cigarettes, which has taken a devastating toll on the African-American community in America.

KODJAK: Haifley says he hoped Gottlieb's successor follows through on his plan. Alison Kodjak, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOE'S "YOU GO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.