CDC whistleblowers come forward over ethics issues
-by Vicki Batts
An anonymous group of scientists from the CDC have joined forces to create a coalition against the uncouth practices the government agency has been undertaking — and to expose them for all they’re worth. The heroic group goes by the acronym CDC SPIDER, the latter half of which stands for Scientists Preserving Integrity, Diligence and Ethics in Research.
In their accusatory letter, the CDC SPIDER group wrote to Carmen S. Villar, Chief of Staff at the CDC, and a copy was sent to the renowned watchdog organization, US Right To Know (USRTK).
“We are a group of scientists at CDC that are very concerned about the current state of ethics at our agency. It appears that our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests. It seems that our mission and Congressional intent for our agency is being circumvented by some of our leaders. What concerns us most, is that it is becoming the norm and not the rare exception.”
The letter goes on to note that several senior management officials are clearly aware of what is transpiring and continue to remain silent, merely turning a blind eye and acting as if these unacceptable practices aren’t taking place. The CDC SPIDER group states that some of these officials even encourage these practices.
CDC SPIDER writes that these illegitimate behaviors are taking place at all levels and units of the CDC; no one appears to be immune. The group states, “These questionable and unethical practices threaten to undermine our credibility and reputation as a trusted leader in public health.”
(Related: Learn more about CDC controversies at CDC.news)
Concerns about the CDC’s ethics have been on the rise for the last several months, the culmination of which truly resides in CDC SPIDER’s momentous letter. While their complaints were filed anonymously for obvious reasons — like fear of retribution — CDC SPIDER could very well be the face of a revolution against a government addled with corporate interests and steeped in fake science.
It is easy to see how the CDC could fall prey to corporate interests. A quick look at the CDC Foundation reveals a huge list of corporations that donated money to the CDC during the 2016 fiscal year. Among the dozens of companies on the list, one can see that several big name brands have made such donations. Abbott Laboratories, Merck, Bayer Corporation, Cargill Inc., The Coca-Cola Company and Pfizer Foundation are just a few of the names on the list.
Oddly enough, one of SPIDER’s complaints, as noted by Carey Gillam for Huffington Post, was that the CDC had developed a “troubling” relationship with the beverage giant Coca-Cola and their nonprofit group International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). One must wonder if the relationships with other cash donors might also be viewed as unsettling.
The Coca-Cola relationship is particularly startling when you note the fact that several CDC scientists appear to have colluded with them or ILSI to further the beverage industry agenda. One example of this was when the CDC’s Director for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Barbara Bowman, had to retire after her bad behavior came to light. She was, apparently, even giving a Coke advocate guidance on how to influence world health authorities on sugar and beverage policies.
Another scientist, Dr. Michael Pratt, has come under fire for his close work with ILSI, co-authoring papers funded by Coca-Cola, and most disturbingly, even receiving funding to attend industry-sponsored events and conferences.
While the CDC Foundation notes that their organization is authorized by Congress to “facilitate partnerships between CDC and the private sector,” one can’t help but wonder if the concerns brought forth by CDC SPIDER are possibly related to the foundation.
While the organization appears to make great efforts to create some semblance of ethics, it is truly mind-boggling that a government agency is allowed, indirectly, to take money from major corporations.
Desperate for change, the SPIDER group concluded their letter with a plea for the Director of Staff to put an end to the corrupt practices taking place at the CDC. Whether or not anything will come of it remains to be seen.