More personnel changes at FDA

HHS Photo By Chris Smith

HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, Deputy Secretary Bill Corr, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and FDA Director of the Center for Tobacco Products Dr. Lawrence Deyton announce the nine graphic health warnings that will be required to appear on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States and in every cigarette advertisement beginning in September 2012 at a Stakeholders event at the White House.

Article Highlights

  • The head of the FDA’s Tobacco Center will be departing – a loss for the agency writes @ScottGottliebMD

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  • Dr. Lawrence Deyton established himself as a fair-minded, professional hand at the helm of the FDA’s Tobacco Center.

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  • Dr. Lawrence Deyton favored a science guided approach that respected the statute. @ScottGottliebMD

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Below memo: The head of FDA’s Tobacco Center will be departing — a loss for the agency. He established himself as a fair minded, professional hand at the helm of the new center. He stood up the new program in a timely fashion and stuck closely to the spirit of the legislation that established FDA’s oversight of Tobacco; eschewing — along the way — activist outside pressures that wanted him to use the regulatory tools in a punitive fashion. He favored a science guided approach that respected the statute.

From: A Message from the Commissioner
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2013 03:30 PM
To: FDA-Wide
Subject: Announcement re: Center for Tobacco Products

Dear Colleagues:

It is with sadness but deep appreciation that I announce that Dr. Lawrence Deyton (known to many as “Bopper”) is stepping down as director of the Center for Tobacco Products to assume new duties at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences as Clinical Professor of Medicine and Health Policy, effective March 4, 2013.

As many of you know, Bopper came to the Agency shortly after the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009 to serve as the first director of FDA’s newly-established Center for Tobacco Products (CTP)—the first new Center at FDA in twenty- five years. His excitement, dedication, and passion for the public health quickly turned a legal statute into a landmark national tobacco product regulation program designed to reduce the impact of tobacco use on the nation’s health, especially among youth. His was a daunting task, but he did it with skill, determination, and success.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Under Bopper’s leadership, FDA has already accomplished much in an effort to reverse that course. Over the last three and a half years under Bopper’s guidance CTP has, among other things: created the science base required for effective tobacco product regulation today and into the future; implemented important restrictions on tobacco manufacturing and marketing to protect our nation’s children, such as banning fruit and candy flavored cigarettes, and enforced new restrictions through a novel partnership with state and territorial governments now in place in 44 U.S. States and U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia.

FDA, and I, will feel the loss of a true public servant. However, Bopper carries his dedication and commitment to a healthier America to a vitally important new venue — assuring that the next generation of physicians and health scientists possess skills and experience that integrate medicine with public health, health policy and regulatory science. The George Washington UniversitySchool of Medicine and the Health

Sciences is fortunate to have Bopper contribute to their important work training tomorrow’s clinicians and scientists – the very type of leaders that we at FDA will need in the years ahead to execute our broad public health responsibilities for the American public.

Bopper has assembled a strong, multi-disciplinary team of tobacco scientists and experts. I have confidence that CTP’s work will continue to vigorously build FDA’s role in tobacco product regulation and efforts to improve public health.

It will be hard to follow in Bopper’s footsteps, but fortunately, an FDA veteran with a great amount of expertise in tobacco product regulation will be returning to FDA to oversee the continued progress and success of this program. I am pleased to announce that Mitchell Zeller, J.D., will assume the role of director of the Center for Tobacco Products on March 4, 2013.

Mitch has over thirty years of FDA-related experience, including a six-year stint as a public interest attorney working on food issues, five years as a congressional counsel working on food and drug issues, and seven years as a senior FDA official. While at FDA, he oversaw the agency’s original assertion of jurisdiction over tobacco products in the 1990’s and was the founding director of FDA’s Office of Tobacco Programs. Mitch has spent the last nineteen years working on tobacco issues, including his time at the agency, the American Legacy Foundation, and as a consultant to federal agencies, non-profits, researchers, and the pharmaceutical industry. Bopper has agreed to be available to Mitch for several weeks to support his transition into his new role.

Please join me in wishing Bopper a fond farewell, in thanking him for all of his hard work on this critically important issue, and in welcoming Mitch back to the Agency.


Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

Commissioner of Food and Drugs


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  • Scott Gottlieb, M.D., a practicing physician, has served in various capacities at the Food and Drug Administration, including senior adviser for medical technology; director of medical policy development; and, most recently, deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs. Dr. Gottlieb has also served as a senior policy adviser at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

    Click here to read Scott’s Medical Innovation blog.

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