Julie Gerberding, MD, who served as director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2002 to 2009,1 2 and joined Merck & Co. as president of Merck Vaccines division in January 2010,3 4 recently sold 102,073 shares of her Merck stock for approximately $$9.119 million. This represented just under half of her shares in the company.5 6 7
Following the transaction, which was completed on Jan. 13, 2020, Dr. Gerberding still owns 106,099 shares of Merck stock worth about $9.478 million.7
Dr. Gerberding, who has been Merck’s executive vice president and chief patient officer for strategic communications, global public policy and population health of Merck since July 2016, also serves on the Board of Directors of health information technology firm Cerner Corporation.8
On Aug. 22, 2019, Dr. Gerberding sold $569,389 worth of shares in Cerner. Prior to that, she sold $1.9 million in Merck stock on Nov. 7, 2018, $594,930 of Merck stock on May 15, 2018, $5.6 million in Merck stock on Nov. 7, 2016 and $2.3 million in Merck stock on May 8, 2015.9 10
Dr. Gerberding has been estimated to earn about $2.5 million a year as an executive at Merck.11 12 Her net worth has been pegged at $13.5 million or more.13 Not bad for someone who earned an annual salary of $207,000 as the head of the CDC at little over a decade ago14—a period during which Merck produced 14 of the 17 vaccines now recommended for children by the CDC and nine of the 10 vaccines recommended by the agency for adults.15
It is this extremely lucrative relationship with a company that made so many vaccines recommended by an agency Dr. Gerberding oversaw for so long that has led to concern about the undue influence of Merck and other pharmaceutical companies on the CDC. The revolving door that exists between the pharmaceutical industry and federal agencies with legal responsibility for overseeing vaccine research, development, licensing, policymaking and promotion, as well as providing oversight on vaccine safety, has been the subject of much discussion by consumer watchdog over the past four decades.16
If a CDC director can expect to leave the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), walk through the revolving door and within a year land a job with a pharmaceutical company earning 10 times the government salary plus get generous stock options and become a multi-millionaire, then it is reasonable to question the integrity of the decision-making process of high ranking employees at the CDC. It is also reasonable for the public to call for an end to the revolving door between HHS and industry.
1 Roos R. Julie Gerberding named director of CDC. Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy July 3, 2002.
2 Evans D. CDC Director Gerberding resigns, leaves behind a controversial legacy. Facing South Jan. 14, 2009.
3 Reuters. Former CDC head lands vaccine job at Merck. Dec. 21, 2009.
4 T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Julie Gerberding, President, Merck Vaccines. Harvard University.
5 World Julie Gerberding sells $9.1M Worth Of Merck & Co. Stock. Chartexe.com. Feb. 6, 2020.
6 Kennedy RF. Merck’s Vaccine Division President Julie Gerberding Sells $9.1 Million in Shares—Is She Jumping Ship? Children’s Health Defense Feb. 5, 2020.
7 Press Release. Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) EVP Julie L. Gerberding Sells 102,073 Shares of Stock. NewsFilter.io.
8 Cerner. Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H.
9 wallmine. Complete history of Julie Gerberding stock trades at Cerner and Merck & Co.
10 Namely Liberty. Former CDC Director Julie Gerberding’s Stock at Merck.
11 Bolen T. CDC Continues to Withhold Information Regarding Thimerosal in Vaccines. Health Impact News 2011.
12 salary.com. Merck & C.
13 wallmine. Julie Gerberding Net Worth. Jan. 15, 2020.
14 Sun LH. CDC director’s salary now set at $209,700 instead of $375,000. The Washington Post May 8, 2018.
15 Timmerman L. Merck’s Julie Gerberding, Former CDC Director, on the Future of Vaccines. Xconomy June 24, 2011.
16 Fisher, BL, Wrangham TK. Public comment submitted on behalf of the National Vaccine Information Center to the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) on the federal vaccine safety system. June 6, 2011.