Five years ago, political lobbyist Jack Abramoff shocked the nation when, in a 60-Minute Report, he revealed just how corrupt the U.S. political system really is. As it turns out, it’s actually worse than most critical outsiders could have imagined.
Now, the downfall of yet another high-powered corporate lobbyist is shedding light on tactics used to promote drug industry interests.
Other recent news reveals how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses scare tactics to incentivize people into getting an annual flu shot—despite studies repeatedly showing that flu shots have been from zero to less than 50 percent effective in preventing type A or B influenza over the past decade.1
For this flu season, the CDC estimates the vaccine has failed about 60 percent of the time to prevent infection with the most prevalent A strain circulating this year.2
The Rise and Fall of a Roche VP
In “The Rise and Fall of a K Street Renegade,” published in The Wall Street Journal,3 Brody Mullins details the suspected wrongdoings of Evan Morris, who at age 27 became a top Washington lobbyist for Roche Holdings AG, one of the largest drug companies in the world.
In July 2015, he came under federal investigation, suspected of embezzling millions of company dollars through various schemes. Part of Morris’ genius was his ability to capitalize on and shape public sentiment through the use of media, advertising, opinion polls, focus groups and the creation of front groups.
According to Mullins, “He sponsored nonprofits that engaged in letter-writing campaigns and organized patient groups that demanded Medicare reimbursement for his firm’s drugs.”
When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered banning the cancer drug Avastin, Morris created the non-profit group, Patient Care Action Network. Morris recruited doctors and patients who then did Morris’ work for him, urging their congressional representatives to oppose the FDA.
How Morris Turned Tamiflu Into a Blockbuster Drug
In the article, Mullins also reveals how Morris made Roche’s influenza drug Tamiflu into a massive blockbuster by seeding and feeding public fear during the 2005 avian flu outbreak:
Roche produced the leading treatment, a pill called Tamiflu. Sensing opportunity, Mr. Morris adopted an emerging lobbying tactic: build support among a lawmaker’s constituents to supplement the traditional glad-handing of elected officials with dinners and campaign donations.
Mr. Morris contracted consultants who promoted news stories that stoked fears about an avian-flu outbreak. The goal was to sell more Tamiflu.
In October 2005, 32 Democratic senators wrote a letter to President George W. Bush expressing their ‘grave concern that the nation is dangerously unprepared for the serious threat of avian influenza.’
Within weeks, Mr. Bush created an emergency stockpile of avian flu treatments that eventually included more than $1 billion worth of Tamiflu pills. His administration offered subsidies that led to millions of dollars of additional Tamiflu sales to state governments.
Reported Flu Deaths—Another Giant PR Sham
While we’re on the topic of fearmongering to boost corporate profits, a paper4 published in the BMJ in 2005 by Peter Doshi deserves a second look. In it, Doshi argues U.S. flu death figures are based more on PR mandates than actual science.
U.S. data on influenza deaths are a mess,” he writes. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges a difference between flu death and flu associated death yet uses the terms interchangeably.
Additionally, there are significant statistical incompatibilities between official estimates and national vital statistics data. Compounding these problems is a marketing of fear…
According to the CDC, about 36,000 Americans die from influenza each year. This statistic is reiterated by most mainstream media sources and government health officials, thereby impressing you with the suggestion that if you or someone you care about gets influenza, you are likely to die from it.
The answer, they say, is to make sure you get vaccinated at the onset of flu season each and every year.
Rarely does anyone question this 36,000-annual flu death number. But everyone really should. As noted by Doshi, the “CDC states that the historic 1968-9 “Hong Kong flu” pandemic killed 34,000 Americans. At the same time, CDC claims 36,000 Americans annually die from flu. What is going on?”
Indeed, is the annual death toll from influenza really GREATER than the well documented 1968-69 influenza pandemic? The answer is no, and Doshi goes on to reveal a number of statistical tricks used to artificially inflate influenza death numbers.
How Influenza Death Numbers Are Inflated
For starters, the CDC bundles influenza and pneumonia deaths together, even though influenza is by far not the sole cause of pneumonia. To quote Doshi:
David Rosenthal, director of Harvard University Health Services, said, ‘People don’t necessarily die, per se, of the [flu] virus … What they die of is a secondary pneumonia. So many of these pneumonias are not viral pneumonias but secondary [pneumonias].’
But … Rosenthal agreed that the flu/pneumonia relationship was not unique. For instance, a recent study5… found that stomach acid suppressing drugs are associated with a higher risk of community acquired pneumonia, but such drugs and pneumonia are not compiled as a single statistic.
In other words, anyone dying from pneumonia—whether contracted as a result of influenza infection, post-surgical complication, the side effect of acid blocker use or any other reason—end up being reported as a “flu death.” When you separate out pneumonia deaths, you end up with a very different picture of influenza mortality:
[A]ccording to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), ‘influenza and pneumonia’ took 62,034 lives in 2001 — 61,777 of which were attributed to pneumonia and 257 to flu, and in only 18 cases was flu virus positively identified.
“Between 1979 and 2002, NCHS data show an average 1,348 flu deaths per year (range 257 to 3006),” Doshi writes, adding:
The NCHS data would be compatible with CDC mortality estimates if about half of the deaths classed by the NCHS as pneumonia were actually flu initiated secondary pneumonias.
But the NCHS criteria indicate otherwise: ‘Cause-of-death statistics are based solely on the underlying cause of death… defined by WHO as `the disease or injury which initiated the train of events leading directly to death.’
This Year Only 10 Percent of Flu-Like Illnesses Caused by Influenza A or B
It’s also worth noting that only 10 to 30 percent of flu-like respiratory illnesses at any point in a given flu season are actually caused by influenza type A or B,6 which is what the flu shot is supposed to prevent.
As Barbara Loe Fisher at the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) points out;
According to a recently released CDC report, in this 2016-2017 flu season the odds are only about one in 10 that flu like illness symptoms are, in fact, caused by type A or B influenza. Between October and February 2017, out of nearly 393,000 respiratory illness lab specimens tested in the U.S., only about 38,000 cases—or 10 percent—were positive for type A or B influenza.7
High Vaccine Failure Rate Plus Low Influenza Incidence Does Not Support Annual Flu Shot Policy
If the flu shot only works from zero to less than 50 percent of the time and most of the flu like illness in any given flu season is not caused by type A or B influenza, the scientific evidence is simply not there for the government to order every child and adult in America to get the flu shot.
It is hardly a public health calamity warranting the vaccination of hundreds of millions of people on an annual basis. Which is precisely the point. As noted by Doshi, the CDC is “working in manufacturers’ interest by conducting campaigns to increase flu vaccination.”
CDC’s ‘Recipe’ for Generating Vaccine Demand
Doshi’s 2005 paper further reveals some of the content of a slide presentation given by Glen Nowak, then-acting director of media relations at the CDC. Nowak gave the presentation at the National Influenza Vaccine Summit in 2004, co-sponsored by the CDC and the American Medical Association (AMA). In a nutshell, Nowak’s presentation focused on how to use the media to create fear and anxiety to promote vaccination and increase vaccine uptake in the U.S.
A section of his presentation titled “Getting Ready for 2004-2005: Lessons (Re-) Learned [Including the Seven-Step Recipe for Generating Interest in, and Demand for, Flu (or any other) Vaccination]”—which has since been removed from the AMAs website, where it was originally posted, but parts of which can be viewed in a recent article by J.B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue,10—included the following ingredients:11 12 13
- Getting medical experts and public health authorities to “publicly … state concern and alarm (and predict dire outcomes)—and urge influenza vaccination”
- Publishing media articles and reports saying “that influenza is causing severe illness and/or affecting lots of people, helping foster the perception that many people are susceptible to a bad case of influenza” and “framing of the flu season in terms that motivate behavior (e.g., as ‘very severe,’ ‘more severe than last or past years,’ ‘deadly’)”
Overall, Nowak’s point was that “heightened concern, anxiety and worry” drives demand for the influenza vaccine and other vaccines. The CDC sure does seem to be doing its part in promulgating this fearmongering. Some doctors are also playing their part and appear to follow Nowak’s “recipe” to the T.14
Hyperbole Over ‘Dangerous Anti-Vaxxers’ Grows
An offshoot of this fearmongering aimed at generating vaccine demand is the public shaming and demonization of so-called “anti-vaxxers”—most of whom are parents who have actually vaccinated their children and are simply trying to get to the bottom of why their child’s health or behavior suddenly changed following one or more of those vaccinations.
Doshi was a graduate student when he wrote the 2005 BMJ paper questioning U.S. annual influenza mortality figures. He’s now an associate editor of The British Medical Journal (BMJ). In an article published in the BMJ on February 7, 2017, Doshi addresses medical journalists who write about vaccines. Well worth reading in its entirety, it reads, in part:15
Good journalism on this topic will require abandoning current practices of avoiding interviewing, understanding, and presenting critical voices out of fear that expressing any criticism amounts to presenting a “false balance” that will result in health scares.
It does matter if the vast majority of doctors or scientists agree on something. But medical journalists should be among the first to realize that while evidence matters, so too do the legitimate concerns of patients. And if patients have concerns, doubts, or suspicions—for example, about the safety of vaccines, this does not mean they are “anti-vaccine.”
… approaches that label anybody and everybody who raises questions about the right headedness of current vaccine policies … as “anti-vaccine” fail on several accounts … Contrary to the suggestion … that vaccines are risk free … the reality is that officially sanctioned written medical information on vaccines is … filled with information about common, uncommon, and unconfirmed but possible harms.
Medical journalists have an obligation to the truth. But journalists must also ensure that patients come first, which means a fresh approach to covering vaccines. It’s time to listen—seriously and respectfully—to patients’ concerns, not demonize them.
Conflicts of Interest at the CDC Threaten Your Health
The fact that the CDC is in charge of not only recommending and promoting mandatory use of vaccines but also monitoring vaccine safety is a significant conflict of interest. In 2006, two members of Congress—Representatives Dave Weldon and Carolyn Maloney—tried to address the problem by introducing a bill that would give the responsibility of vaccine safety to an independent agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).16
There’s an enormous inherent conflict of interest within the CDC and if we fail to move vaccine safety to a separate independent office, safety issues will remain a low priority and public confidence in vaccines will continue to erode,” Weldon said.
The bill went nowhere, and public confidence in the CDC has indeed continued to erode with each passing year. In 2011, NVIC issued a public comment to the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) recommending overhaul of the U.S. vaccine safety system, including the creation of an independent vaccine safety monitoring agency modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).17
In 2014, NVIC issued a press release renewing its two decade long call for removal of vaccine safety oversight from DHHS. NVIC co-founder and president Barbara Loe Fisher said:
It is a conflict of interest for DHHS to be in charge of vaccine safety and also license vaccines, and take money from drug companies to fast track vaccines, and partner with drug companies to develop and share profits from vaccine sales, and make national vaccine policies that get turned into state vaccine laws, while also deciding which children will and will not get a vaccine injury compensation award. That is too much power for one federal agency.18
The CDC has also racked up an embarrassing number of scandals in the last couple of years, with whistleblowers saying the agency is “shaped by outside parties and rogue interests” and that data destruction and fraudulent reporting has been used to hide autism links and rises in prevalence.
Note: This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It has been slightly modified from the original article published on Dr. Mercola’s website at www.mercola.com.
1 National Vaccine Information Center. Apr. 26, 2016
2 CDC. Feb. 17, 2017
3 Wall Street Journal. Feb, 13, 2017
4 BMJ 2005 Dec 10; 331(7529): 1412
5 JAMA 2004;292: 1955-60
6 NVIC.org. Spring 2004, The Vaccine Reaction (PDF)
7 National Vaccine Information Center. Feb. 28, 2017
8 Johns Hopkins Health Library.
9 Cleveland Clinic. August 2013
10 A Medium Corporation Feb. 10, 2017
11 BMJ 2005. Dec 10; 331(7529): 1412
12 UPI.com. Oct. 15, 2004
13 A Medium Corporation Feb. 10, 2017
14 A Medium Corporation Feb. 10, 2017
15 BMJ 2017;356:j661
16 Carolyn B. Maloney. July 26, 2006
17 National Vaccine Information Center. June 6, 2011
18 National Vaccine Information Center. Sept. 2, 2014