Gupta is also expected to take a leadership role in leading the FDA’s communications strategy, serving as a public face on important issues and trying to build trust in the agency’s health advice.
Currently the chief medical officer of new products at Amazon, Gupta has raised his national profile as a medical analyst and frequent television commentator on the Covid pandemic over the past two years. He also served on a team of health experts advising President Joe Biden during the presidential campaign and transition in response to the pandemic.
An FDA spokesman declined to comment. Gupta also declined to comment.
The search for a chief adviser comes as the FDA has assumed a central role in a simultaneous effort to fight the pandemic, reduce shortages of infant formula, and protect access to abortion. But the agency has repeatedly stumbled in its messages on these issues to the public and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. These difficulties have reinforced the Biden administration’s belief that FDA Commissioner Robert Kaliff needs higher-level support, people with knowledge of the matter say.
In recent months, Kaliff has struggled to explain the FDA’s lackluster response to the infant formula supply crisis, which has disappointed Democratic lawmakers and damaged the agency’s reputation.
“There have been many warning signs about this crisis,” the senator said. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) Said during a May hearing when several lawmakers pressured Kaliff over the agency’s actions. “And it looks like the people in charge of security and supply here just crossed out every single one of them.”
The FDA has also faced criticism over a lengthy evaluation of Covid vaccines for the nation’s youngest children. He offered mixed messages about the delay, which has sparked confusion and alarm among parents trying to protect their children as the country increasingly rolled back on Covid restrictions.
And after the Supreme Court overturned Rowe vs. WadeIt took the FDA several hours to give an official response. In it, the agency stated that “patients should have access to drugs that are safe and effective for their FDA-approved use.” The FDA did not provide more details, despite Biden’s assurances that the agency will play a leading role in protecting and expanding access to abortion pills.
In addition to post-Caviar Fallout, the agency is gearing up for another round of Covid vaccinations this fall to help protect against Omicron sub-options. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also took action to ban e-cigarettes made by vaping giant Juul and drastically reduced nicotine levels in cigarettes.
Gupta’s planned hiring will be one of a string of high-profile FDA officials over the past few weeks. Hilary Marston, a former member of the White House Covid Response Team, is joining the FDA this month as California’s chief medical officer. Johns Hopkins University pharmacologist Namanje Bumpus will begin work in August as the agency’s chief scientist.
Gupta will be tasked with primarily improving the FDA’s image and public confidence in the agency as a public health authority, as well as serving as California’s chief policy adviser on various policy issues.
Kaliff has expressed concern about public trust in the government on health issues, recently declaring misinformation the “leading cause of death in the country” and calling for more action to combat it.
The role of the chief medical adviser may continue to evolve following the expected retirement of First Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock, a longtime health official Biden once thought was the head of the FDA. Woodcock recently told colleagues that she would likely leave the agency by the end of the year.
Kaliff also eventually plans to hire a senior adviser to oversee the FDA’s food policy activities following the formula shortage, said a person with knowledge of the matter who has yet to find a final candidate to lead the redesign.