There seems to be something of an ABG campaign brewing with regard to rumors of President-Elect Obama's pick for Surgeon General of the U.S.
Anybody But Gupta.
At first there seemed to be generally positive reviews of CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, based on his proven abilities as a public communicator regarding medical information.
Then protests began to be registered--but interestingly, mostly on what I'd regard as less important issues.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), for one, has objected to the possible nomination on the grounds that Gupta did a hatchet job on Michael Moore's movie Sicko, despite the fact that Moore had his facts straight and Gupta didn't. See http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/january/conyers_obama_shoul.php
Gupta also later presented a report on John McCain's health reform plan that didn't square with the facts and seemed heavily biased in the plan's favor. He also has no administrative experience that would seem to qualify him to lead the U.S. Public Health Service.
So far, however, it has been only an e-mail from the Physicians for a National Health Program that has nailed Dr. Gupta on what seems to me to be perhaps the strongest reason to oppose his nomination. After discussing his clear lack of enthusiasm for a single-payer health plan, the pet goal of PNHP, the e-mail went on: As a media figure, he has been disturbingly cozy with Big Pharma. He co-hosts Turner Private Networks' monthly show "Accent Health," which airs in doctors' offices around the country and which serves as a major conduit for targeted ads from the drug companies. Another example: In 2003, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, he publicly downplayed concerns about the dangers of Vioxx. It was removed from the market a year later by its manufacturer, Merck. (Full disclosure: I am a PHNP member and am sympathetic with the call for single-payer.)
The candidates that the Obama Team have been rumored to be considering for FDA commissioner generally have been known for their strong stance of skapticism or criticism of the pharmaceutical industry (though as to whether those reputations are deserved, see Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeanne-lenzer-and-shannon-brownlee/a-new-years-resolution-fo_b_156571.html). It would seem a major contradiction to put somebody with those credentials in the FDA post and then pick Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who doesn't seem to know a conflict of interest when it bites him in the whatever, to be Surgeon General.