Bach, Califf Elected to National Academy of Medicine

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Seventy Americans and 9 international members were elected to the National Academy of Medicine this week.

An outspoken critic on the high cost of cancer drugs and the person now in charge of the agency that approves them are both among the 70 Americans elected this week to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Peter B. Bach, MD, MAPP, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and Robert M. Califf, MD, MACC, commissioner of the FDA, in Washington, DC, were announced Wednesday. Nine international members were also selected.


Bach gained noticed in 2012 when he wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times outlining why MSKCC refused to put Zaltrap, a new treatment for colorectal cancer, on its formulary. The hospital determined that existing treatments were just as effective at half the cost, and Bach’s commentary was seen as key to forcing the manufacturer to lower Zaltrap’s price.

Since then, Bach has continued his advocacy for value in drug pricing, introducing the DrugAbacus, a tool that integrates factors of clinical efficacy, side effects, and cost. He has also made significant contributions on racial disparities in cancer care, cancer screening and risk modeling, and fragmentation of care delivery in Medicare.

Califf, a cardiologist, was confirmed as FDA commissioner in February 2016 after joining the agency a year prior as deputy commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco. He came to FDA from Duke University, where he had was a professor of medicine and vice chancellor for clinical and translational research, director of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute, and founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. He is among the most frequently cited authors in biomedical science and has led many landmark clinical trials.

He has also advocated for Medicare coverage of clinical trials and, while at Duke, took part in initiatives to improve clinical research methods. Earlier this year, during an address at the 65th Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology, Califf outlined ways in which the use of precision medicine could make clinical trials less expensive. Harnessing information gathered in electronic health records could allow researchers to bring down the cost and time of trials by changing the ways researchers gather patient feedback, he said at the time.

The Academy also elected J. Craig Venter, PhD, founder, chair, and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute of Rockville, Maryland. Venter, along with Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, is best-known for his work to map the human genome. Venter’s paper appeared in Science in 2001.