Big Pharma Shill to Head the Institute Of Medicine

Big Pharma Shill to Head the Institute Of Medicine

Story at-a-glance -

  • Victor Dzau, currently the chancellor for health affairs at Duke University, will be the new president of the Institute of Medicine, beginning July 1, 2014
  • Dzau’s work at Duke University has a long history of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which accepts a great deal of money from Big Pharma and is deeply enmeshed with the industry
  • Dzau has served on the board of multiple pharmaceutical companies, a medical devices company, and PepsiCo – and has become a multimillionaire as a result
  • The revolving doors between academia, government, and industry have effectively led to a situation where it's now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trust conventional health advice, even if it comes from supposedly reputable institutions

By Dr. Mercola

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) was established in 1970 as the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which was originally chartered by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

As a non-profit, non-governmental organization, the IOM has a theoretically noble goal – to conduct research and provide supposedly unbiased, independent information about health to both the government and the private sector.

As IOM puts it: "The IOM asks and answers the nation's most pressing questions about health and health care."

To date we have seen some useful reports come out of the IOM, such as one review of more than 1,000 vaccine studies that found convincing evidence of 14 health outcomes -- including seizures, inflammation of the brain, and fainting -- that can be caused by certain vaccines.1

In 2011, the IOM admitted, "Vaccines are not free from side effects, or 'adverse effects'" and noted that "for the vast majority [of these effects] the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship."

This is the type of information that the US desperately needs to prompt further investigations into issues not only involving vaccines but also countless other areas of health and medicine. We need studies that are truly unbiased, that will allow for open, informed discussions about health care and true disease prevention.

Unfortunately, the IOM is getting a new president, cardiologist Victor Dzau, and he comes with a lot of "baggage" – from ties to multiple pharmaceutical companies to serving on the board at PepsiCo. This physician-businessman is likely to flood the IOM with conflicts of interest that may make unbiased IOM reports a thing of the past.

Who Is Victor Dzau, the IOM's New President?

Victor Dzau is currently the chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and the CEO of the Duke University Health System. Before that, he served as the chair of the department of medicine and director of research at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic (Medicine) at Harvard Medical School. He was also the chair of the department of medicine at Stanford University.

It's an impressive resume that will only be bolstered by the six-year appointment as president of the IOM, which is set to begin on July 1, 2014… However, don't let his strong academic ties bedazzle you…

In a 2010 Lancet paper, Dzau says his vision for global "health science" is driven by a "public-private financial partnership" between academic institutions and governments.2 Unfortunately, large U.S. universities – who have long maintained close ties with Big Pharma – are now increasingly creating very lucrative "public-private partnerships" with government, which creates a major conflict of interest.

Already, Dzau's work at Duke University has a long history of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which accepts a great deal of money from Big Pharma and is deeply enmeshed with the industry, as well as vaccine development research. For instance:

  • In July 2005, the Duke Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology was opened with a $300-million, 7-year-funding commitment from NIH3
  • In 2006, a top-level secure biocontainment lab was opened at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, which is developing HIV, TB, influenza, and Dengue vaccines4 (the Duke Human Vaccine Institute was also started with NIH money5)
  • In 2012, Duke got another $139 million from NIH to develop an HIV vaccine6
  • In 2012, Dzau also delivered an "order" to Duke University students to get the flu shot7
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Dzau Became a Multimillionaire by Virtue of His Corporate Ties

In 2010, a group of Duke students protested the hefty compensation being given to some Duke officials, Dzau included. He received more than $2.2 million in total compensation from Duke in 2009, an amount some felt was excessive especially when financial difficulties were being reported at the University. However, that figure is nothing compared to the compensation Dzau is receiving from his corporate connections outside of Duke. As reported by Forbes,8 Dzau served on several corporate boards in 2009, including:

  • Alnylam Pharmaceuticals: Dzau received more than $234,000 in compensation in 2009, along with owning more than $424,000 worth of company shares
  • Genzyme (a biotechnology company now owned by Sanofi): Dzau received nearly $413,000 in compensation plus owned shares worth more than $5.3 million
  • Medtronic (a medical devices company): Dzau received nearly $174,000 in compensation plus owned shares worth nearly $494,000
  • PepsiCo: Dzau received $260,000 in compensation and owned shares worth more than $1.6 million

In case you lost count, this amounts to more than $1 million in compensation from serving as a director for these companies, in addition to stock valued at more than $7.8 million… and that's in addition to the $2.2 million from Duke. And, remember, these are 2009 figures. Today, it's estimated that Dzau owns:9

  • 90,000 shares of stock in Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, worth more than $8 million
  • More than 25,000 shares of Medtronic stock, worth more than $1.4 million
  • More than 36,000 shares of PepsiCo stock, worth more than $2.8 million

How Can IOM Provide Unbiased National Health Advice with Corporate-Backed Leaders?

The issue here, of course, isn't how much money Dzau has… it's how a person with such extensive corporate board memberships can realistically uphold the IOM promise of providing unbiased health information. As reported by Health Care Renewal:

"Even though Dr. Dzau will apparently exit his board memberships before he becomes IOM President, the IOM has been providing such analysis and recommendations under the supervision of a Council member who had fiduciary duties to the stockholders of two pharmaceutical companies, a medical device company, and a company that makes sugar-laden soft drinks and snack foods. It will continue to provide such analysis and recommendations under the supervision of a President who became a multimillionaire by virtue of the stock holdings he acquired through his board positions."

Dr. Paul Offit Was Elected to the IOM in 2011

And Dzau isn't the only IOM official with a questionable background… Dr. Offit, who became an IOM member in 2011, has similarly concerning conflicts of interest to Dzau. Dr. Offit received a reported $350,000 grant from Merck to develop a rotavirus vaccine, and has served on the scientific advisory board for Merck. He received another estimated $6 million when Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) sold the patent for the RotaTeq vaccine he developed. He was also on the CDC advisory board that approved the addition of a rotavirus vaccine to the US National Immunization Program (NIP) in 1998—a decision that paid off handsomely.

The original rotavirus vaccine added to the NIP, which was made by a competitor, was pulled from the market due to adverse effects. The RotaTeq vaccine replaced it, and he continues to receive royalty payments from the sale of RotaTeq to this day. (According to Wired Magazine,10 Merck's revenue from RotaTeq was $665 million in 2008 alone, of which Offit and his RotaTeq co-creators are said to receive a percentage.)

In 2005, Merck, CHOP, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine announced the creation of the Maurice R. Hilleman Chair in Vaccinology. The chair, paid for by Merck, went to Dr. Offit, who still holds it to this day. In addition to his faculty salary at CHOP, he gets another $90,000 a year from this Merck-endowed chair. Offit has been severely criticized for his blatant conflicts of interest in the past and is also notorious for his claim that infants can tolerate 10,000 vaccines at once.

Last year, he was also a primary figurehead behind a flurry of media reports that told readers to beware, if not outright be afraid, of taking supplements.

Unfortunately, the revolving doors between academia, 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 — including that supported by non-profits like IOM, which is supposed to be independent -- due to this massive collusion.

The Fix Is In: You've Got to Look Out for Your Own Health

Unfortunately today, even organizations that appear to be an independent "trusted" source for health information are typically very much intertwined with and beholden to industry, including Big Pharma and junk-food giants, and their health recommendations reflect this.

For instance, NIH's Web site,, is the most visited health content site online, but NIH is deeply enmeshed with the pharmaceutical industry. 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, 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 common sense 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.