Wednesday, December 23, 2009

PHARMA HO-HO-HO


I decided to break out of my current blogging sabbatical to briefly comment on the Christmas present Julie Gerberding just got. For those who have not yet heard, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control ¬⎯ the federal agency responsible for formulating our government’s vaccination policies ⎯ has just been named to be the new president of Merck Vaccine.

She won’t be able to officially take the job until January 25, 2010. You see, there’s this pesky law that prevents government officials from taking jobs that might otherwise appear to be a conflict of interest for a period of one year after leaving the government.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a little contradictory of at least the spirit, and perhaps the letter of the law that this deal was cut well within the one-year period. That both Gerberding and Merck feel comfortable making this announcement less than a year after her leaving the government shows just how toothless the one-year requirement is. The waiting period should be raised to at least five years ⎯ and maybe more ⎯ if it is to mean anything. And discussions of a job should not commence until that period has completely elapsed.

Of course, even a requirement that employment negotiations should await the end of the waiting period would have been much of a safeguard in this “wink-wink/nudge-nudge” world. Rather than expound on that point, I simply refer you over to Ginger’s blog, where she lays out the coziness that has always existed between these parties. When Gerberding first stepped down from the CDC last January, Ginger correctly predicted the outcome, with the only question being whether the final resting place would be Lily or Merck.

The predictability of this appointment does not make it any less shameful. If those holding positions of public trust in our government felt any shame at all, there would be hearings into this appointment to determine all of the circumstances surrounding the negotiations for the position in light of Dr. Gerberding’s actions (or lack thereof) at the CDC. I won’t hold my breath waiting for those hearings, though. If those holding positions of public trust in our government felt any shame at all, the crisis that is the ASD epidemic would not likely be nearly as bad as it is.

1 Comments:

Blogger EdR77203 said...

The cynic in me would wonder if there is not a deliberate, corrupt, incestuous relationship between the CDC and the drug companies.

I have seen the same thing in the relationships between military officials and defense contractors. On the one hand, people like Dr. Gerberding come with ready knowledge of the business and management skills. On the other hand, you cannot be impartial if you know that you will be accepting employment with one of the drug companies. For me, it is a closed community that takes care of its own. Even if the law prohibited Merck from hiring Dr Gerberding, the pharmaceutical companies would find a way to take care of her when she left the CDC. It may take the form of contracting with a company she formed or it may be in the form of sponsoring a charity that she happens to run.

Today, we are inundated with advertisements that send people to their physicians clamoring for patent medicine that they may or may not need. Before, physicians were visited daily with agents of the industry passing out free samples to get doctors to prescribe these meds to their patients. Is it any better?

Ultimately, the system is as corrupt or incorruptable as the people running it. There is too much money in the pharmaceutical industry for it to be otherwise.

12/25/09, 5:05 PM  

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