Randall Tobias, the former CEO of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and President Bush's nominee to head the new global AIDS initiative office, dismissed criticism of his industry ties Tuesday, saying they may help him negotiate cheaper prices for anti-HIV drugs, the Indianapolis Star reports. Tobias said he plans to resign from his position on Eli Lilly's board and to sell his stock in all pharmaceutical companies except Lilly, which does not make any anti-HIV drugs. Speaking at a Senate confirmation hearing, Tobias said his ties to the industry do not pose a conflict of interest and that he will not use his new position to purchase anti-HIV drugs at higher prices to benefit the drugmakers. "I'm hopeful my experience in the pharmaceutical industry might enable me to get a better deal," Tobias said.
A Senate confirmation vote could come as early as Thursday. Tobias is expected to be approved for the new post. Bush nominated Tobias in July to head the new Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator to help manage the country's five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative. AIDS activists have protested Tobias's appointment, saying that his ties to the drug industry are a conflict of interest. Paul Zeitz, director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said Tobias's ties to Eli Lilly are problematic because the company contributes to a pharmaceutical trade group that has "taken every measure they possibly can with their great wealth to block access to life-saving, generically manufactured drugs."