The FDA's cozy relationship with Big Pharma

As people rush to tout the recent FDA approval of Pfizer's mRNA vaccine as if it were some great scientific victory, the institution's shady history seems to be all but forgotten.

No matter how you slice it, the pharmaceutical industry is the central engine of the global health establishment.  The industry's larger corporations (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, etc.) provide funding for the FDA, the CDC, the WHO; they do this both directly and through NGOs like the EPDA.  It was recently reported that pharmaceutical giants are raking in the money with the sale of their novel and inadequately tested COVID-19 vaccines.  Pfizer expects to earn $33.5 billion in 2021.  J&J estimates its full-year COVID-19 vaccine sales to be $2.5 billion, while Moderna forecasts $19.2 billion.  These enormous figures will be grossly surpassed when one considers the forthcoming round of booster shots and the profits those will yield.  

When it comes to lobbying money spent in 2021, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America group ranks number three nationally.  Interestingly, the fourth, fifth, and sixth positions are also members of the health establishment.  These are the American Hospital Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and the American Medical Association.  Respectively.  Pfizer by itself is number 15.

The ties between the FDA and Big Pharma run deep, and their relationship has become so symbiotic that neither could exist without the other unless massive reforms were to take place.  Big Pharma relies on the FDA to approve and rush its products to market, and the FDA relies on Big Pharma to receive its funding.  Not only that, but there seems to be a revolving door of FDA commissioners landing on the boards of these pharmaceutical companies. 

Scott Gottlieb, who stepped down as FDA commissioner in the spring of 2019, soon found himself sitting comfortably on Pfizer's board of directors.  Gottlieb's predecessor, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, landed a cushy position on the board of directors for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  Steven Hahn, former FDA commissioner under Donald Trump, wound up at Flagship Pioneering, the venture capital firm that launched Moderna. 

The list goes on and on.  In fact, nine out of the last ten FDA commissioners — representing nearly four decades of agency leadership — have gone on to work for pharmaceutical companies.  The lone exception is David Kessler, who joined the ranks in academia before eventually settling in his current position as chair of the board of directors at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Criticism toward the modern medical-industrial complex has triggered many arguments, and this is particularly true in the age of COVID.  Regardless of what stance you take on any medical debate, it is undeniable that the industry operates in the same mafia-esque fashion as the Media, Big Tech, and Big Government.

Ryan Delarme, managing editor and contributor @ stillnessinthestorm.com.  Personal portfolio @ ryandelarme.com/journalism.

Image: Pixabay.

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.