The Food and Drug Administration’s top tobacco scientist has left his job to work for tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI), best known as the maker of Marlboro cigarettes.
It’s the second high-profile FDA hiring by PMI in recent months, and it comes at a time when the FDA is struggling to regulate the evolving smoking and vapor products from companies like PMI. Earlier this month, for example, the FDA announced an embarrassing step backwards in its botched attempt to ban Juul vape products. Juul — largely blamed for a teenage vaping epidemic — is partially owned by Altria, which spun off PMI in 2008.
On Tuesday, Matt Holman, director of the Office of Science at the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), announced his resignation effective immediately to accept a position at PMI. Holman, a biochemist by training, has been with the FDA for over 20 years and has been the director of the CTP’s Office of Science since 2017.
in the a note Later Tuesday, CTP director Brian King broke the news of Holman’s departure to staff, noting that he was on an indefinite leave of absence. Holman “retired from all CTP/FDA work while exploring career opportunities outside of government, consistent with the agency’s ethics policy,” King wrote.
In a statement, an FDA spokesman added that “government employees are free to pursue non-government employment and are required to promptly disclose that they are exploring non-government opportunities.”
It’s unclear when Holman retired, but it appears to have been less than four months. On the 18th of March Holman has signed off on the third generation of PMI’s heated, smokeless tobacco product IQOS. Holman also signed PMI’s initial IQOS application in 2020.
Meanwhile, in May PMI hired Keagan Lenihan, who held the positions of FDA Deputy Representative for External Affairs and Strategic Initiatives and then FDA Chief of Staff. At PMI, she is now vice president of government affairs and public policy and director of the company’s DC office. PMI has not announced the title of Holman’s new role.
The moves come as the FDA struggles to keep up with e-cigarettes and new vaping products. In addition to the recent Juul fiasco, the FDA missed a court-ordered deadline last September Make decisions about specific e-cigarettes, including Juul. The FDA announced earlier this month that it is trying to process around 1 million non-tobacco nicotine products submitted by more than 200 manufacturers.
Last week, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf announced that he had commissioned an outside review of the CTP and its food program. The move acknowledged the agency was stumbling on its regulatory responsibilities. “We have made important progress and made regulatory decisions across a wide range of millions of products,” Califf told the CTP. “But even greater challenges lie ahead in determining how the agency will address complex policy issues and establish enforcement actions for an increasing number of novel products that could have potentially significant public health implications.”
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