Matt Holman, who has served as head of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products since 2017, is leaving the FDA to take a job with Philip Morris International. According to a story in The Hill, a spokesperson for Philip Morris said Holman “is committed to helping existing adult smokers access scientifically substantiated smoke-free alternatives while protecting youth. We are looking forward to him joining our team as we continue to pursue a smoke free future.”
The head of the Office of Science is the second most important position in the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, right behind the director because the head supervises and signs off on PMTA and modified risk (MRTP) applications. It is crucial that the person in that position not prejudge applications and consider all the currently available science in making decisions. Hopefully Brian King and the FDA leadership will recruit someone in that position whose thinking better reflects everything we know — and will learn — about these new tobacco products.
This is a typical revolving door move where high level government employees move from regulator agencies to the regulated industries and I’m sure Holman will be a valuable employee to PMI given his deep understand of how the FDA thinks about tobacco products.
Most important, Holman has been one of the chief architects of FDA’s approach to so-called reduced risk products, including his important August 2020 memo that laid out how FDA would process the anticipated deluge of PMTA (Premarket Tobacco Product Applications) for e-cigarettes and other new products. Significantly, before FDA had analyzed a single application, he described FDA’s “public heath goals” as including
Ensure a variety of ENDS [electronic nicotine delivery systems] have an opportunity to remain on the market to facilitate adult smokers switching to less harmful tobacco products.
And he has implemented this policy vision. As head of the Office of Science he oversaw and signed off on all the “reduced risk” products FDA has authorized to far, including Philip Morris’ IQOS heated tobacco product, despite major issues with its application. He also signed off on FDA’s authorization for RJR’s Vuse Solo and other e-cigarettes.
We have been critical of these decisions as leaving out or downplaying the most important current available science, most notably:
- As consumer products, e-cigarettes do not help smokers quit (“switch completely” in tobacco industry and FDA lexicon). Indeed, the most recent long-term studies shows e-cigarettes make it less likely that smokers will quit.
- E-cigarettes, while perhaps a little less dangerous than cigarettes, have a wide range of disease-causing effects similar to cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes have dramatically expanded the tobacco epidemic by recruiting millions of kids at low risk of initiating nicotine addiction with cigarettes to start with e-cigarettes.
So, it is likely that Holman will fit in quite nicely at PMI.
At lot of people have been troubled by the revolving door aspect of Holman’s move to the tobacco industry.
I prefer to focus on the opportunity for FDA that his departure has created. New FDA Center for Tobacco Products Director Brian King now has an opportunity to install of new head of the Office of Science who focuses on the current science rather than the industry’s “harm reduction” rhetoric.
Here’s an excellent NY Times story on the situation.
4 thoughts on “FDA science leader Matt Holman leaves FDA for PMI”
I thought the mole, if only one, was much deeper in the FDA. Now let’s see if we can finally get rid of Menthol and all flavored tobacco products QUICKLE.
WTF. That answers a few questions. Maybe the HHS OIG needs to look into this. What did Holman do before FDA?
Sent from my iPad Joel S. Dunnington MD, FACR, 281-387-6770, email@example.com
Holman worked at FDA for the last 20 years.
For those of you familiar with our five-year, frustrated effort to work with the FDA about enforcement against underage nicotine sales, including even a strongly worded letter from the unique pairing of Senators Mitch McConnell and Tim Kaine, it comes as no real surprise that the nicotine industry has deep reach into the agency.
The departure of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) second in command for an immediate job with Phillip Morris gives a more public perspective of the actual function of this powerful body, one that has oversight of the production, marketing and sales of all nicotine and tobacco products. What many had believed to be mere bureaucratic ineptitude, fear of litigation and governmental foot-dragging that rendered the Agency so incredibly ineffective in controlling the epidemic of adolescent nicotine addiction, now takes on a more sinister aspect.
Matt Holman, the departing official, was largely responsible for pushing the industry’s debunked “harm reduction” narrative in support of continued sale of e-cigarettes and similar products. Not only did the agency sit idly by while millions of American kids habituated to vaping, it even gave an FDA stamp of approval over several products of dubious value.
Yesterday’s New York Times article offers several insights. Best of all is our board member, Micah Berman’s quote that was so spot-on that I simultaneously grimaced and chortled so loudly that it disturbed my son sleeping in the next room.
A more in-depth discussion of the history of the FDA’s flawed evaluations of e-cigarettes and “heat-not-burn” products is in yesterday’s excellent blog post by Stan Glantz.
An appropriate latin corruption: illegitimi non carborundum,
As a PS. This from our superb DC lobbyist, Andy Quinn. “It literally does not get any worse than this…other than if we had a senior Pentagon official going to work for the Taliban. “