The EU's Health Commissioner, John Dalli, has resigned from the European Commission (EC) following an investigation into his handling of a review of a policy on tobacco-the latest black mark for EU health regulators who have seen a number of high-profile scandals and resignations in the past two years.
In the press statement, the EC said Dalli's resignation followed a complaint made by Swedish Match, a tobacco manufacturer which claimed Dalli had traded favors with a Maltese entrepreneur in return for future legislative support.
The investigation, carried out by the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF ), failed to find any conclusive evidence regarding Dalli's behavior. Regardless, the case is being referred to the attorney general of Malta for further consideration because OLAF found he was at least aware of the events going on, OLAF said.
"After the president informed Mr. Dalli about the report received from OLAF, Mr. Dalli decided to resign in order to be able to defend his reputation and that of the Commission. Mr. Dalli categorically rejects these findings," explained the EC.
The report is already garnering some controversy, with Dalli appearing on New Europe, an online news program, to state that he had not had the opportunity to review the report, much to his consternation. Dalli made clear that EC President Jose Manuel Barroso had asked for his resignation, and he had not offered it willingly.
Dalli will be replaced on an interim basis by Maros Sefcovic, vice president of the EC. The transition comes at a tricky time for the EC, as it is in the process of implementing and overhauling several important pieces of legislation, including pharmacovigilance legislation, a new medical device directive and a new clinical trials directive, among others.
The resignation is the latest and perhaps most prominent resignation to occur in the last year. The European Medicines Agency's Thomas Lönngren resigned from the agency in late 2011 amid some controversy regarding a consulting business allegedly started while he was still acting as executive director of the agency. Just months later in April, EMA's top advisory official, Eric Abadie, resigned after being linked with a scandal involving the French diabetes drug Mediator. The same scandal had earlier taken down the entire French regulatory agency, AFSSAPS, which was replaced with the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (MNSA).