The former chairman of NICE Sir Michael Rawlins has attracted criticism after taking up the position of a board member at US biotech firm Intra-Cellular Therapies.

The move comes just six weeks after Sir Michael left his position at the Institute, where he headed up the world’s most respected health technology assessor and frequently did battle with pharma firms over the price of its drugs. He has now been replaced by Professor David Haslam.

But Sir Michael's move is a highly contentious one given his previous position, and has puzzled a number of observers given he already is president of the Royal Society of Medicine and chair of the board of UK Biobank Limited, meaning his is not short of positions and income. 

One senior NICE employee told the Financial Times that its staff had not been informed of Sir Michael’s new role, and described the move as “strange and disappointing,” adding that he felt it “burned his credibility”.

The Department of Health told PharmaTimes UK News that he had no broken any rules of employment, however, as he was not a civil servant, but an independent chairman.

In a statement the chairman and chief executive of Intra-Cellular Therapies, Sharon Mates, said: “His expertise in the cost-effectiveness of new pharmaceuticals and other issues in health economics will be invaluable to Intra-Cellular Therapies. I look forward to working closely with Michael as we transition our clinical programmes through late-stage development and commercial approval.”

In his final interview as chair of NICE, Sir Michael told PharmaTimes Magazine that he was having a “clean break” from the Institute and would have no more contact, but added that he would continue to work with NICE International. He did not mention, when asked about future roles, the position at Intra-Cellular. 

This move comes several years after the high-profile case of Thomas Lonngren, the former head of the European Medicines Agency, left his position at the regulator and joined the NDA pharma consultancy group just two weeks later.

As with Sir Michael, big questions were asked on why it was the he was allowed to take this position, and how fair it is that individual companies are allowed to take on people with such extensive knowledge on getting drugs to market, or past a HTA barrier.

Tim Reed, head of Health Action International, a health advocacy network, also speaking to the FT, said: “I’m surprised. Sir Michael is one of the good guys. He’s been a staunch defender of rational use of medicines and I hope he remains so.

“When the opinion leaders and guideline-setters exchange places, it raises questions about the integrity of a system that allows a revolving door between the regulated and the regulator.”