The Centers For Disease Control often places a disclaimer on their recommendations that reads, “CDC, our planners, and our content experts wish to disclose they have no financial interests or other relationships with the manufacturers of commercial products . . . CDC does not accept commercial support.”
This would lead many to believe that the CDC is not prey to industry whimsy and does not receive money from the very companies we the people try so desperately to protect ourselves against. Unfortunately, this disclaimer is something of a fallacy: the CDC does receive money from corporations, and they get it from just about every major corporation in the country.
You may be wondering, “how do they get away with that?” but the answer simple: through their very own foundation that was even approved by Congress. On the CDC Foundation website, it states that the organization’s purpose is to forge “effective partnerships between the CDC and others,” but what it is does not say is that those “others” often have interests that don’t include human health. The foundation also describes itself as more a “liaison” between the CDC and the private sector, which is equally disturbing. (Related: Learn more about the CDC’s wrongdoings at CDC.news)
During the 2016 fiscal year alone, the CDC Foundation raised over $42 million. The donor list for that year includes dozens of corporations, but some of the more notable ones include Bayer Corporation, Cargill, Inc., The Coca Cola Company, Genzyme Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer Foundation, United Industries Corporation, and countless others.
The list of partners listed on their website is even more depressing. The list of the CDC Foundation’s corporate partners is replete pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, pesticide manufacturers and biotechnology companies. And in spite of their involvement with the foundation — and indirectly, the CDC itself — we’re supposed to believe that even in the face of financial provisions and other resources, the CDC, which is a federal agency, is free of industry influence?
Many people believe that the CDC is free of such influence; that is why it has garnered such a prestigious reputation. And yet, it appears to be quite the opposite. A review authored by Jeanne Lenzer that was published in the British journal BMJ in 2015 reveals that through the CDC Foundation, much of the research led by the CDC is indeed backed by a wide variety of corporations. (Related: Read about politicians questioning the integrity of the CDC.)
There are countless reasons to be concerned about these industry ties: many of them produce things that are harmful to humans, and we should be able to trust our government to test these products without a conflict of interest being present. And yet, time and time again, corporations choose to involve themselves with studies that pertain to their products. How is that not a conflict of interest?
One good example of this is the CDC’s ties to Tamiflu — and their recommendation of the product. When launching their “Take 3” influenza prevention program in 2015, the CDC Foundation took nearly $200,000 from Roche — the company that makes Tamiflu and promotes it as being an effective treatment for the flu. One of three suggestions from the CDC included taking antiviral drugs (like Tamiflu) if they should fall ill. However, even the FDA reported that drugs like Tamiflu don’t provide as much benefit as they claim to. In spite of this, the CDC made their controversial recommendation anyways.
There are many concerning aspects to the CDC Foundation, and the CDC. For example, the foundation’s page about their corporate partners even notes that these corporations often participate in project design and help see their research to completion. That should be sounding off serious alarms, and there is no talking their way out of that admission: corporations actually collaborate with the CDC on their projects, in addition to funding them.
It is truly mind-boggling that such an organization not only exists, but was sanctioned by Congress.