Politics

CDC Director Resigns Over Financial Conflicts of Interest

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald resigned from her position as director of the CDC this Wednesday.

Dr. Mercola, Guest
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Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald resigned from her position as director of the CDC this Wednesday.  As reported by Fox Business, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald purchased tobacco stocks just one month after she started her role as the director of the nation’s top public health agency in July 2017.

The financial transactions that took her down were small in the scheme of things. In August 2017, she purchased somewhere between $1,001 and $15,000 of stock in Japan Tobacco. By October the stock had been sold, as she had promised in a September 2017 ethics agreement.

Fitzgerald was unable to divest certain holdings in cancer and health information technology because of legal and contractual obligations. These investments prevented Fitzgerald from testifying before lawmakers and she had to recuse herself from certain issues involving cancer and opioids.

The combined impact of these conflicts of interest and the tobacco stock revelations made her position at the CDC politically untenable.  Fitzgerald, an OB/GYN, also had ties to Coke, having received $1 million in funding from the Georgia-based company to combat childhood obesity during her six-year stint as commissioner of Georgia’s department of public health.

There is a long tradition of corruption at the CDC that predates the current administration and when compared to the track record of previous employees at both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Fitzgerald’s compromised investment portfolio appears to be par for the course. Fitzgerald is merely the most recent example of prominent federal personnel owning stocks in the health care companies, soda makers, junk food giants and tobacco companies. These are the very organizations that the CDC and FDA are supposed to be regulating.

In 2016, Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., former director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP), left the agency after her close ties with Coca-Cola were revealed. Bowman reportedly aided a Coca-Cola representative in efforts to influence World Health Organization (WHO) officials to relax recommendations on sugar limits.

Dr. Michael Pratt, senior adviser for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, has also promoted and led research for the soda giant. At issue are Pratt’s ties to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), which is a nonprofit front group serving the interests of the food and beverage industries. ILSI was founded by a Coca-Cola executive in 1978, and it has long been a champion for the junk-food industry.

Julie Gerberding, former director of the CDC, oversaw vaccine decisions during her tenure and promptly left the agency in 2009 to head Merck’s vaccines division. In 2015, she sold 38,368 shares of her Merck stock valued at $2 million.

Fitzgerald’s departure should put the spotlight squarely on the CDC. Being recused from tobacco, opioids and cancer discussions can only be described as a crippling limitation and her conflicts of interest closely mirror those of the entire organization.  One thing is clear, the failings of this institution run far deeper than one woman’s investment portfolio. In 2015, Dr. William Thompson, a research scientist at the CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases (NCIR), claimed the CDC covered up a vaccine-autism connection in relation to the MMR vaccine.

The study discovered that African-American boys who received the MMR vaccine before the age of 36 months had an increased risk for autism. Thompson stated the study co-authors then “scheduled a meeting to destroy documents related to the study.”

He said the remaining four co-authors all met and brought a big garbage can into the meeting room, “and reviewed and went through all the hard copy documents that we had thought we should discard, and put them into a huge garbage can.”

Corruption is not limited to the CDC. Before his appointment by President Obama in 2015, former FDA commissioner Robert Califf received money from 23 drug companies including giants like Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Merck, Schering-Plough and GSK, according to a disclosure statement on the website of Duke Clinical Research Institute. He even praised the involvement of Pharma in government affairs.

It’s important to not view the resignation of Fitzgerald through a partisan lens. Corruption permeates every level of federal agencies like the CDC and the FDA. The CDC and FDA are not a benevolent watch dogs but institutions with close ties to the industries they are supposed to monitor. Their abysmal track record has given us plenty of reason to suspect that they protect the interests of industry giants at the expense of the general public. Take their recommendations with a grain of salt.

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This article (CDC Director Resigns Over Financial Conflicts of Interest) was originally created and published by Dr. Mercola.

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