By Dr. Mercola
There's no shortage of stories detailing conflicts of interest—so many in fact that you may be getting sick and tired of hearing of them. However, this is a truly important issue that must be tackled, and one of the ways of doing that is by exposing it to the harsh light of day. As long as people remain unaware, or turn a blind eye, it will continue unabated.
The price we pay for not paying attention is the loss of health, as the information disseminated by grossly compromised health agencies is skewed in favor of various industries, with Big Pharma leading the pack as one of the most powerful political and governmental influences.
Here, I will review two important revolving-door cases, and while neither is recent news, many of you may still be unaware of them.
Former CDC Director Now President of Merck's Vaccine Unit
In the summer of 2011, Merck president Julie Gerberding said in a news interview1 that she's "very bullish on vaccines," as she recounted the various ways she helps Merck sell its products. What she didn't divulge was her motivation for leaving her job as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—an agency charged with overseeing vaccines and drug companies—and join Merck in the first place, back in January 2010.
If you don't see the enormity of the influence her former high-level ties to the CDC can have, just consider the fact that Merck makes 14 of the 17 pediatric vaccines recommended by the CDC, and 9 of the 10 recommended for adults, and while vaccine safety advocates are trying to rein in the number of vaccines given to babies, safety concerns keep falling on deaf ears. The vaccine industry is booming, and it's become quite clear that profit potential is the driving factor behind it.
One of the reasons for this is because vaccine patents do not expire like drugs do, so each vaccine adopted for widespread use has the potential to make enormous, continuous profits for decades to come. Vaccine makers also enjoy a high degree of immunity against lawsuits—and in the case of pandemic vaccines, absolute immunity—so the financial liability when something goes wrong is very low, compared to drugs.
Gerberding has a Long History of Disregard for Vaccine Safety
Joining a parade of other high-ranking government officials who pass through the revolving doors between government and Big Pharma, Gerberding left a trail of controversy behind her when she left the CDC. While a 2009 article by the Institute for Southern Studies lists a number of them2, I believe they left out the most important ones, namely her misinformation campaign about the pandemic swine flu vaccine, as well as her naive stance on vaccine safety issues in general.
The CDC disseminated extremely exaggerated data on the 2009 H1N1 "pandemic" and urged almost everyone in the U.S. to take the new, untested vaccines. When questions arose, they blocked CBS's requests for samples of the swine flu cases and added obstacles to getting information. Despite the many dangers that have since been linked to the hastily developed vaccine—including the confirmed link to narcolepsy—the H1N1 vaccine is now part and parcel of the "regular" seasonal flu vaccine, although most people are completely unaware of this fact. And the CDC is now, for the first time ever, urging the seasonal flu vaccine on everyone in the country, from six months' of age until death.
Even more disturbing, the CDC withheld data on miscarriages from the H1N1 vaccines under Gerberding's lead, while insisting that pregnant women be put first in line to receive it. This was a dramatic reversal of its own recommendations. More than 3,500 post-vaccination miscarriages may have simply been ignored by the CDC.
One of Merck's potentially most dangerous vaccines right now is Gardasil; a vaccine that so far has been linked to thousands of adverse events and at least 49 unexplained deaths. It's a situation that the FDA and CDC have repeatedly denied, even as the adverse reports mount.
Gerberding's 2004 report to Congress, 'Prevention of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection'3 likely played a significant role in getting the controversial vaccine approved in the first place. Needless to say, the approval of this questionable vaccine guaranteed her future employer billions of dollars-worth of profits. Gerberding has also been a staunch defender of thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative used in many vaccines, and has consistently denied any links between vaccines and autism.
All in all, Gerberding has repeatedly demonstrated that safety is nowhere on her list of priorities or concerns when it comes to vaccines. It's easy to see why Merck would want her to head up their vaccine unit. For the rest of us, however, her blatant disregard for proven vaccine safety is bad news indeed.
Former NIH Director Now Heads Sanofi Research Labs
Another former government official who's switched sides is Elias Zerhouni, former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—one of the world's foremost medical research centers, and an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Zerhouni is now head of Sanofi-Aventis' research labs4. He also is a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; a member of the Board of Trustees at the Mayo Clinic; and is a senior fellow for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Health Program5.
As pointed out in a recent article by Forbes Magazine6, Zerhouni is no stranger to controversies over conflicts-of-interest.
In the fall of 2003, the NIH with Zerhouni at its head faced grave accusations when it came to light that hundreds of its scientists had financial ties to the medical and pharmaceutical industries. According to a 2004 article in the NIH Record7, over 100 scientists did not get approval for their industry activities, even though the rules were so loose virtually all requests to conduct outside work were approved by the agency, without any limits on compensation or hours worked for outside entities.
In one case, an academic scientist was found to have a financial interest in a therapy that ended up killing a patient. The case served as a potent warning of how dangerous such conflicts of interest can be. While Zerhouni managed to emerge from the 2003 debacle looking like a good crisis manager, the following paragraphs from the NIH Record8 are quite telling. Essentially, Zerhouni dissuaded Congress from doing the right thing, which is ban all outside activities of those working for the NIH, limiting the restrictions for conflicts of interest to upper level management only:
"[Zerhouni] disclosed that "initially, Congress truly wanted to ban [all outside activities], and the members of the committee have been very public about that...I was fortunate to be able to make contact with legislators and to help them understand what happened, how it happened, and why [a draconian response] might not be the right thing to do."
Zerhouni said that over the course of long discussion, a good consensus emerged that formed the basis of NIH's approach to the issue: stewards of public funds should never be vulnerable even to the perception that their activities could result in private gain. The top concern, he said, is, "How do you keep a true firewall and separation between the public trust — the money the public has given us in trust — and the activities of those who manage that resource?"
He doesn't think it was well appreciated outside of NIH that the agency "has a dual nature — number one, we are a granting agency, but number two, we are also one of the most advanced, most capable biomedical research institutions in the world.
So we're both sort of an academic, scientific research place, and yet next to that we're also a government agency with its own rules and regulations...I said, look, we need to build a firewall around those who have fiduciary responsibility relative to the government, and those who do not. And that's where we came up with these much more stringent rules for directors, deputy directors, and people who have those authorities, versus those who do not."
Conflicts of Interest Affect Your Life and Well-Being...
When it comes to medicine, mere disclosure of conflict of interest is not nearly enough. Patients need unbiased advice when it comes to making decisions that can impact their very life, and physicians and scientists with financial ties to the drug industry should not be allowed to participate in broad policy and public-health recommendations in the first place. Likewise, while it's perfectly legal to engage the revolving door and switch jobs from government agencies to private industry and vice-versa, this practice has become so widespread it has undermined the entire system of checks and balances.
Conflict of interest is rampant not only within the field of medicine, but the revolving doors between government and industry has effectively led to a situation where it's now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trust conventional health advice from the federal government—which is supposed to be independent due to this massive collusion between government and industry. Here are a few more examples of the many revolving doors between the pharmaceutical industry and the US government:
- The American Cancer Society has close financial ties to both makers of mammography equipment and cancer drugs. Other conflicts of interest include ties to, and financial support from, the pesticide, petrochemical, biotech, cosmetics, and junk food industries—the very industries whose products are the primary contributors to cancer
- Drug companies pay seven-figure amounts into FDA coffers to gain approval of their drugs. FDA staff knows that the cash means higher salaries and more perks in the agency budget. (Incidentally, the FDA's commissioner Margaret Hamburg came straight from the boardroom of America's largest seller of dental amalgam, Henry Schein, Inc.)
- Conflicts of interest are also rampant in a mass vaccination infrastructure that has the same people who are regulating and promoting vaccines also evaluating vaccine safety.
- The vaccine industry gives millions for conferences, grants, and medical education classes sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The vaccine industry even helped build AAP's headquarters.
- President Obama's nominee at the Department of Homeland Security overseeing bioterrorism defense, Dr. Tara O'Toole, served as a key advisor for a lobbying group funded by a pharmaceutical company that asked the government to spend more money for anthrax vaccines and biodefense research9
There are countless others—so many, in fact, I'm sure you could fill an entire book with examples. These types of blatant conflicts should simply not be tolerated, but they most certainly are. For now the majority still does not understand the pharmaceutical industry's power and influence over government, and the field of conventional medicine itself, but the tide is beginning to turn, and will continue to do so as more and more people get informed.
What Can You do to Take Control of Your Health?
The good news is that increasing numbers of people are now waking up to these harsh realities, and you, being among those who are informed, can help share this knowledge with others. Remember that the definition of fascism is a government system that has complete power in regimenting all industry and forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism. What we have here is a hybrid—a sort of corporate fascism, where industry has powerful control over government, and forcefully suppresses anything that threatens their monopoly on profits.
Unfortunately, this can be extremely dangerous as it pertains to your health.
Virtually every measurable index indicates that despite the ever-increasing amounts of money invested, if you live in the United States your chance of achieving optimal health through the medical system is only getting worse. While the U.S. spends more than twice the amount on health care as other developed nations, we rank 49th in life expectancy worldwide—far lower than most other developed nations! The time is ripe for you to take control of your health, and this site is full of free comprehensive recommendations that can serve as an excellent, truly independent starting point.
When it comes to your health, you simply cannot accept claims at their face value ... you've got to dig below the surface and use all the resources available to you, including your own commonsense and reason, true independent experts' advice and other's experiences, to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you in any given situation. Ultimately, you must come to the realization that YOU are responsible for your, and your family's health -- not me, not your physician, and certainly not any researchers or government health agencies on a drug or vaccine manufacturer's payroll.
You've got to become an active participant in your care and make sure you are making decisions that correspond with your own best judgment, knowledge and experiences.