Thursday, April 9, 2015

Has Merck formed an unholy alliance with influential medical journals, as well as with CDC?

Yesterday I was in a televised panel discussion about vaccines, and I suggested that Merck might influence CDC by donating to CDC's foundation and by having hired CDC's former Director, Julie Gerberding, as President of Merck Vaccines.  After NJ's Health Director Eddie Bresnitz mandated Merck's HPV vaccine in NJ, he too was given a job at Merck. Merck donated to Texas governor Rick Perry, both directly and when he was head of the Republican Governors' Association, so the largest share did not technically count as going to him.  Perry mandated HPV for Texas' girls. [Texas' legislature later voted down his mandate.]

Merck has also made donations to national organizations of state legislators to support "educational programs" that supported vaccine mandates at the state level for Merck vaccines.  From the WaPo:
"One of [Gov. Rick] Perry’s closest confidantes, his former chief of staff Mike Toomey, was then working as an Austin-based lobbyist for Merck, which was in the midst of a multimillion-dollar campaign to persuade states to make the vaccine mandatory."
Then there is the issue of Merck faking its data on its Mumps vaccine, making it seem more effective than it really is. Merck has been charged by its own scientists over this. While public health officials blamed vaccine refusers for recent mumps outbreaks, it seems the greater culprit was poor vaccine protection.

Another panel member challenged my statements about Merck and public officials as "grand conspiracy theory."  Who needs conspiracies, when the facts tell the story? Let's look instead at some additional Merck murkiness, uncovered by my colleague Vera Sharav and others:

BMJ and Lancet Wedded to Merck CME Partnership

Monday, 14 February 2011

Why did the BMJ fail to disclose its partnership agreement with Merck,, a major vaccine manufacturer--13 vaccines, including the controversial MMR vaccine ? 

Is it just conceivably possible, that the BMJ's decision to commission and publish Brian Deer's series of articles attacking Dr. Andrew Wakefield's personal and scientific integrity--and lend its unwavering editorial endorsement--without giving him an opportunity to defend himself--might be influenced by a SIGNIFICANT financial conflict of interest?
The discovery that a psychiatry textbook penned by two influential academics who gained notoriety, was actually ghostwritten shocked Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA, who called it "a new level of chutzpah [that] takes your breath away."
How about the discovery that in 2008, the pharmaceutical giant, Merck--using its tradename, MSD signed a partnership agreement  with the BMJ Group that effectively gave the company control of 350 interactive continuing medical education courses in over 20 medical therapy areas?
"This unique partnership will change the face of medical education in Europe and beyond, allowing users access to most of BMJ Learning's library of 'Continuing Medical Education' (CME) and 'Continuing Professional Development' (CPD) content. The agreement between MSD and BMJ Group comprises about 350 interactive learning courses in over 20 medical therapy areas."
Why did the BMJ fail to disclose its partnership agreement with Merck?
Why did the BMJ conceal from readers-- of the Brian Deer series of articles and the BMJ editorial excoriating Dr. Andrew Wakefield, charging him with deliberate fraud and financial conflict of interest-- the fact that the BMJ had a partnership with Merck, a major manufacturer of vaccines--including the MMR vaccine, which is at the center of the Wakefield controversy? 
In 2009, Univadis, a Merck trademark, entered into a partnership with The Lancet providing "medical education and an information website."
 "Through a unique global medical literature service called Just Published, clinical specialists registered on Univadis ®will receive free access to the full text of recently published articles from The Lancet.  This new service will be available on  
I don't think it a stretch to suggest--as Martin Walker does (below) that: 
"Linking Univadis ® /Merck with the BMJ and The Lancet inevitably links them both to Merck's VIS (Vaccine Information Service) online — 'a comprehensive source of information, especially designed to provide healthcare professionals with the answers to their questions on vaccines.'"
The fact that BMJ and The Lancet-- two of the most prestigious international medical journals would enter into a medical education partnership with the drug manufacturer whose staff drew up a "doctor hit list" to intimidate doctors who dared to discuss the lethal cardiac risks linked to Vioxx--is in itself a betrayal of trust of the worst sort.
The stated purpose of the Merck / BMJ/ Lancet partnerships that remained hidden from readers' view, is to "change the face of medical education in Europe and beyond." 
The BMJ editorial accompanying Deer's articles, did its best to lend authority to the vaccine industry (Merck's) perspective. In an introductory sound bite the editors declare: 
"Clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare."
Finally, the  Statement about Competing Interests at the end of the BMJ Editorial claims compliance with conflict of interest disclosure requirements of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. But the BMJ editor in chief and two deputy editors conceal rather than disclose the most relevant financial conflict of interest:
"Competing interests: All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years
Vera Hassner Sharav

Merck Vaccines for Children: :

 (Influenza Virus Vaccine)
[Haemophilus b Conjugate (Meningococcal Protein Conjugate) and Hepatitis B (Recombinant) Vaccine] 
GARDASIL® [Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16, and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant] 
M-M-R®II (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Virus Vaccine Live) 
PedvaxHIB® [Haemophilus b Conjugate Vaccine (Meningococcal Protein Conjugate)] 
PNEUMOVAX®23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent) 
ProQuad® (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella Virus Vaccine Live)
RECOMBIVAX HB® [Hepatitis B Vaccine (Recombinant)]
RotaTeq® (Rotavirus Vaccine, Live, Oral, Pentavalent) 
Tetanus and Diphtheria Toxoids Adsorbed 
VAQTA® (Hepatitis A Vaccine, Inactivated) 
VARIVAX® (Varicella Virus Vaccine Live) 
ZOSTAVAX® (Zoster Vaccine Live)

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