By Dr. Mercola
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is actually the second-highest funding source for drug studies (first is the drug companies, themselves). Many assume NIH-funded studies are unbiased, but NIH accepts a great deal of money from Big Pharma and is deeply enmeshed with the industry,
The revolving door between government and the pharmaceutical industry had barely stopped spinning from January 2011, when Elias Zerhouni, former director of the NIH — one of the world's foremost medical research centers, and an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — became the president of Sanofi-Aventis' research labs.
Now another NIH leader – Gary Nabel, one of NIH's most prominent researchers who heads up the agency's Vaccine Research Center (VRC) – has announced that he will become chief scientific officer at Sanofi in December 2012…
Why are Top Government Researchers Moving Over to Big Pharma?
Nabel, who said about his former VRC position that there was "nothing about the job that I don't like," said he decided to switch to Sanofi because it would cut his commute time.
It's a position he is ideally suited for, considering his extensive connections with the government agency.
It was actually Elias Zerhouni who recruited him for the position. As the former director of the NIH, and now the head of Sanofi-Aventis' research labs, as well as a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, a member of the Board of Trustees at the Mayo Clinic, and a senior fellow for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Health Program, Zerhouni is no stranger to 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 Record,1 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.
Nabel says he "shares Zerhouni's vision to put Sanofi "in the first tier of scientifically driven research organizations in pharma, along the lines of what Genentech did in the '90s."
The revolving doors between government and industry have 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.
Can Government Drug and Vaccine Research Ever be Trusted?
It's well known that when industry sponsors a study, it's far more likely that the results will favor the industry. Government funding, however, is supposed to be neutral; an independent source from which unbiased scientific research can be drawn. But when we see glaring examples of their close ties to industry – two leaders from the NIH recently switched sides to work for Big Pharma – it becomes clear that even the government is far from impartial.
And the NIH is not unique in these ties. Joining a parade of other high-ranking government officials who passed through the revolving doors between government and Big Pharma, in January 2010, Julie Gerberding, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), became the president of Merck's vaccine unit.
If you don't see the enormity of the influence Gerberding's 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.
The Government Agencies Regulating and Recommending Your Drugs and Vaccines Have Close Ties to the Drug Companies
Here are a few more examples of the many revolving doors between the pharmaceutical industry and the U.S. government … unfortunately, these types of close ties are more the rule rather than the exception:
- 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 but who support "awareness" and cause-marketing campaigns that focus on distracting attention away from the preventable causes of cancer, e.g. carcinogens, towards some future would-be pharmaceutical cure.
- Drug companies pay seven-figure amounts into U.S. Food and Drug Administration (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 (mercury), 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.
- Dr. Tara O'Toole of the Department of Homeland Security, overseeing bioterrorism defense, 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 research2
As you might suspect, as a result of these cozy connections, the information disseminated by these 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. This also helps explain why the federal government has a long history of siding with, and protecting, the drug companies, such as:
- Previous drug company funding -- to the tune of $2 billion -- in helping drug companies bring flu vaccines to the market faster
- Letting drug giants like Pfizer off the hook for fraudulent marketing charges so their products could continue to flow through Medicare and Medicaid
- Including incentives in the "Affordable Health Care for America Act" for people to purchase more expensive prescription drugs in favor of their less expensive over-the-counter cousins
Effectiveness of Flu Vaccines Over-Stated, “Over-Hyped”
The government faithfully recommends that Americans get their flu shots every year, but did you know that its effectiveness is highly questionable?
In a new report published by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota,3a review of more than 12,000 publications and documents, as well as interviews with more than 100 experts in the field, revealed that flu vaccines offer less protection against seasonal flu than has previously been reported.
Whereas flu vaccine effectiveness in healthy adults is often cited as high as 70-90 percent, the review found the inactivated flu vaccine had an only 59 percent protection rate in healthy adults, lacking evidence of protection in children aged 2 to 17, and inconsistent evidence of protection in adults aged 65 and over.
“We have conducted four reviews since the late 1990s. We calculated that you need to vaccinate between 33 and 99 people to prevent one case of flu, depending on the match between the vaccine and the circulating strains of the virus. I want people held accountable for wasting taxpayer’s money on these vaccines. The reviews have been available for years and nothing has been done.”
Keep Your Eyes Wide Open When Searching for Health Information Online and Elsewhere
NIH's Web site, NIH.gov, is the most visited health content site online. As discussed, though they appear to be an independent "trusted" source for health information, they are very much intertwined with, and beholden to, Big Pharma, and their health recommendations reflect this.
The second most-visited site, WebMD, is also not the independent informational site many believe it to be. They rely heavily on advertising dollars from the drug industry in order to keep afloat, and at one point were featuring a screening test for depression, sponsored by drug maker Eli Lilly, that would tell you that you were at risk for the condition even if you checked "no" to every symptom in the test.
This is precisely the reason why I've instead committed to selling a limited number of well-researched and independently tested products that I personally believe in, in order to remain independent and unbiased -- free from the spoken or unspoken demands of advertisers. And now, as the fourth most-visited health content site, and the number one most-visited natural health site, Mercola.com remains one of the only truly independent informational sources on the Web.
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.