The COVID-19 hustler: Scott Gottlieb, Big Pharma, & billions of dollars in pandemic profits

Gottlieb has raked in millions, while his patrons make billions off of the pandemic.

No man personifies the revolving door of government, lobbying, and private industry more than Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner whose pandemic panic proclamations have helped generate billions of dollars for his many employers, and have made him something of a media celebrity in 2020. Gottlieb, an early prophet of COVID-19 doomsday projections and a longtime proponent of heavy lockdowns that have devastated the U.S. economy and society, is still, somehow, considered a trusted source for the latest information on COVID-19, and has become the media’s conductor of the Big Pharma pandemic panic train.

Dr. Gottlieb is the ultimate coronavirus panic salesman, but his panic serves a great purpose for his benefactors. The former FDA commissioner is the face of major pharmaceutical companies’ push to profit off of the pandemic. Having demonstrated a long track record of fomenting moral panic (he once argued that millions of children would soon die if the U.S. didn’t ban e-cigs, or vaping products) and taking millions of dollars for “advisory” roles in pharmaceutical companies prior to and after his service in the FDA, Gottlieb is the perfect man for the relentless COVID scare campaign.

An incredibly valuable asset, he has used his regular media platform and past credentials to sell the public on his mass testing and vaccine plans, while simultaneously appearing to open up his rolodex behind the scenes to make key government connections for the companies that hire him. Gottlieb, who resigned from his post as FDA Commissioner in April of 2019, has since jumped head first into the COVID-19 treasure chest. 

Since coronavirus mania began in the United States at the beginning of this year, Gottlieb has been a mainstay on television and in major print publications. From his almost daily CNBC “Squawk Box” appearances and regular CBS “Face The Nation” hits, in addition to his weekly opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal (which regularly act as free PR for his companies), the message is always the same: more panic, more fear, more testing, and by the way, a vaccine is needed to return to the “new normal,” which will still require lots and lots of testing.

From the beginning of the pandemic to very recently, Gottlieb’s proposed “solutions” to curb the virus have always consisted of sweeping, damaging draconian lockdowns, school and business closures, and other unproven punitive measures. His incredibly influential, but equally destructive “roadmap” to reopening even made its way to President Trump. Notably, none of Gottlieb’s business ventures have been impacted by his proposals, but tens of millions of Americans have suffered as a result of the policies he has touted.

The media’s favorite COVID-19 panic salesman has leveraged the pandemic to secure countless cash grabs for his underwriters, who in turn, have rewarded Gottlieb with lucrative benefits.

Gottlieb’s current roster of pharmaceutical company affiliations, only one year removed from leading a government public health agency with a multi-billion dollar budget, reveals a troubling lack of separation between Big Pharma, the FDA, and the U.S. government as a whole. In my research, I found that at least three companies that recently hired Gottlieb have either secured critical FDA authorizations related to COVID-19, or have entered into direct partnerships with the government entity.

Since leaving the FDA just last year, Gottlieb has secured board memberships that have earned him compensation to the tune of millions of dollars in cash and stock options. These healthcare-associated pharma and tech companies are thriving in the era of COVID mania, and lining up windfall after windfall in the COVID-19 testing and vaccine spaces.


As a member of the Pfizer Board of Directors, Dr. Gottlieb, who joined the board in July of 2019, earned at least $231,621 in total compensation (70 percent in stock) for less than a full year of work. A full year on the Pfizer board of directors will earn Gottlieb at least $335,000. 

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that brought in over $50 billion in revenue in 2019, is heavily invested in the COVID-19 space. The U.S. government has already dished out $2 billion to Pfizer for the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine, with the company pledging to produce 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end. It’s unclear whether the company will meet that target date. Industry experts analyze that Pfizer is set to make at least $15 billion in profit from its COVID-19 vaccine.

Shortly after closing the deal with the U.S. taxpayer, Pfizer’s market cap went up $48 billion dollars, hitting the jackpot for Gottlieb’s stock options with the company. In an April SEC filing, Gottlieb revealed that he was awarded over 9,000 shares of phantom stock, which is worth about $333,000.

Gottlieb routinely appears on television and writes articles in major publications to push the coronavirus vaccine. I have never seen him asked about his conflict of interest with Pfizer and other companies he’s involved with. Only recently, after months of simply describing him as a “former FDA commissioner” or “AEI resident fellow,” did CNBC and others list Gottlieb’s Big Pharma affiliations. His Wall Street Journal bio only reveals that he sits on the boards of healthcare companies, but does not name them.


Gottlieb joined the board of directors of Illumina, a publicly traded biotech company, in February of this year. Illumina board members make just under $500,000 a year, which is paid out mostly in stock. Illumina stock is up about 20% since Gottlieb joined the board. In a May disclosure filed with the SEC, Gottlieb revealed that he was awarded 1358 shares of Illumina stock, which amounts to about $470,000.

Illumina is heavily involved in the COVID-19 space. In June, four months after Gottlieb joined the board, the FDA (remember, Gottlieb was the FDA commissioner in 2019) awarded Illumina an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 test.

In September, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) granted millions of dollars to Illumina for development of its COVID-19 testing.

On an almost daily basis, Gottlieb pushes the need for widespread testing of COVID-19, without mentioning the several companies he is invested in, such as Illumina, will make big bucks off of a constant COVID-19 testing regime.

Aetion, Inc

In September 2019, Gottlieb joined the board of Aetion, a healthcare technology company. 

In May of this year, Aetion announced a partnership with the FDA  “to advance the understanding of and the response to coronavirus disease.” It is unclear whether there is a financial agreement in place. Again, another company that secured business with the FDA after bringing on its former commissioner to its board of directors. 


Dr. Gottlieb joined the board of directors of Tempus, a healthcare technology company, in October, 2019. There is no public information available on Tempus board salaries, but it’s safe to say, based on previously reported numbers, that Gottlieb earns a six figure salary through Tempus. Investors value the company at around $5 billion.

Under Gottlieb’s watch, Tempus has secured an FDA emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 PCR test. In May, Tempus announced it is testing 12,000 people daily for the novel coronavirus.

American Enterprise Institute

Gottlieb is a resident fellow at AEI, a position that earns him a little over $210,000 a year. Gottlieb has leveraged his position at the D.C. think tank to publish COVID-19 “road maps” that advocate for endless, mass testing (with a target goal of 3 million tests per week), and no return to “new normal” until society is sufficiently vaccinated. 


Dr. Gottlieb sits on the advisory board of FasterCures, a project of the Milken Institute, which is designed to accelerate the process of bringing new pharmaceutical drugs to market. The non-profit is heavily invested in the COVID-19 space. 


Gottlieb is a partner at NEA (New Enterprise Associates), a venture capital firm that makes major investments in the healthcare space.


COVID-19 is the best thing that has ever happened to Scott Gottlieb’s career, and in particular, his checking account. He sits on the board of at least 3 companies that have cleared regulatory hurdles and have been granted approvals or business with the FDA, and another organization that has secured billions in funding from the U.S. taxpayer. Tens of millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet, due in part to poor advice and damaging policies being promoted by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who is in turn getting filthy rich off of our current state of total pandemia.