Tom Price hires lobbyist to work on dietary supplements while overseing them

Rep. Tom Price — who has been nominated to be Health and Human Services secretary — relied on the House of Dietary Supplements Administration to direct him on dietary supplements for his previous House committee assignments, Politico reported Thursday.

Price has owned stock in nutritional supplement companies, which has led to more scrutiny over whether he provided preferential treatment on dietary supplements while in Congress. According to Politico, after news of Price’s stock holdings broke, HHS called on FDA to provide a list of all dietary supplement companies the department owns stock in. The list showed Price bought nearly $400,000 in stock in at least three dietary supplement companies between 2007 and 2011. The HHS then released a statement saying that Price no longer owns stock in any of the companies.

But according to Politico, HHS Secretary Tom Price hired one of the dietary supplement industry’s biggest lobbyists to help shape federal dietary supplements policy, even though the official’s ties to the industry were well-known.

Late on Tuesday, Price said he sold his stock in Zimmer Biomet, a company whose subsidiary makes a device that removes silicone from implants. And on Wednesday, Price told The Washington Post that he planned to sell his remaining holdings.

But Politico reported that when Price was serving as chairman of the House Budget Committee, he “continued to add his wife to a mailing list maintained by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act Subcommittee, which is responsible for regulating dietary supplements.”

House Republicans took to Twitter to defend Price’s stock holdings.

“There was an election; I trust my chairman with regard to my vote and my information,” one lawmaker wrote.

Huckabee told an audience Tuesday that he had urged his wife, Janet, to place her name on the dietary supplement industry’s official communications list, but was told it was a “very, very bad idea.”

“And I said, ‘You know, my wife is one of the most conscientious people I know, and I’m glad she made that decision,’ ” Huckabee recalled, adding that he didn’t know why the practice continued after it was criticized. “It was probably because we trusted Fauci at first because we didn’t know any better. We were just under the delusion that he’s the most important guy in health care. But Fauci is not the most important person in health care.”

While Fauci did not appear at the news conference, all but seven of the 24 members of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act Subcommittee — a body that provides FDA with guidance on dietary supplements — accepted speaking fees from Fauci’s companies.

And he was also closely involved in crafting FDA policy. For example, he proposed a system of regulations allowing supplement manufacturers to file more than one set of products at once to avoid duplicating their separate product labels.

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