UPDATE: 7:51 p.m. EST -- U.S. President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will meet Wednesday at the White House, according to the White House press secretary. Josh Earnest released a brief statement Tuesday evening announcing the meeting. 

The Vermont senator and the president "will meet privately in the Oval Office and there will be no formal agenda," according to the statement from Earnest.



Obama on Monday praised Sanders' rival and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton as being "extraordinarily experienced," though it was not a formal endorsement of Obama's former secretary of state. 

Original story:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Tuesday that he is formally blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration, citing concerns about his ties to the pharmaceutical industry and a lack of commitment to lowering drug prices. The Democratic presidential candidate expressed opposition to Robert Califf last year, when Obama announced the doctor would be his pick, MSNBC reported.

“Dr. Califf’s extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry give me no reason to believe that he would make the FDA work for ordinary Americans, rather than just the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies,” Sanders said in a statement Tuesday, six days before he faces Hillary Clinton in the crucial Iowa caucuses.

Califf, a cardiologist and researcher at Duke University, has been deputy commissioner at the FDA since last February. Obama nominated him to be the agency’s next commissioner in September.

The decision to place a hold on Obama’s nominee comes one day after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also put a hold on Califf’s nomination. The nomination passed the Senate Health Committee earlier this month, but Markey said he will block the nomination until the FDA changes its approval process for opioid painkillers, the Hill reported. The agency decided last year to approve the use of OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, and Markey wants the agency to promise to hold advisory committees before making similar decisions in the future.

Sanders said he agreed with Markey’s concerns, emphasizing that “the FDA must change the way it approaches addiction.” The Vermont senator has made the pharmaceutical industry one of the many establishment targets of his White House bid.

“I also strongly believe that at a time when millions of Americans cannot afford to purchase the prescription drugs they require, we need a leader at the FDA who is prepared to stand up to the drug companies. We need someone who will work to substantially lower drug prices, implement rules to safely import brand-name drugs from Canada and hold companies accountable who defraud our government,” he said in the statement.