Dirty Little $ecrets: Following the Pharma Money Trail

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When it comes to your family’s health choices — more specifically, choices affecting the health of your children — what factors do you consider when choosing one course of prevention or treatment over the other? I would imagine the majority of parents very carefully weigh the risks and benefits for the child, the impact a certain course of action or inaction would have on the child’s future, as well as the impact on the family unit as a whole, among various other things. The reasonings, decisions, and outcomes would be very different for each individual family.

One thing I can say with near certainty is that money, the cost of necessary treatments or interventions, would not be a hindrance for long if the best course of treatment happened to be the most expensive. Funds could be raised and payment plans put in place. Money would not stand between the child and their best interest in this scenario.

Now, let’s flip the script a bit and imagine a scenario where a total stranger to you and your child was tasked with making these very important decisions. What factors might someone who would never meet your child face to face take into account when making a decision affecting their health and well-being? They might weigh the risks and benefits, but perhaps in a much broader sense by considering not only the risks and benefits to the child, but maybe also to themselves and to society. Along with the future impact on your child, they may also consider the future impacts on themselves and the public. Add to this equation the fact that this stranger was set up to benefit financially by deciding on one course of action over all of the others. What if their career depended on one over the other? Their reputation? Their life’s work? Could this person be trusted to make a decision that was truly and honestly in the very best interest of YOUR child, YOUR family?

In these two scenarios, the options are the same, but the final decisions, motivations, and outcomes would likely be very different.

Unfortunately, there are a few legislators in Texas that are setting us up for that dreaded second scenario. The strangers with financial gains to be made and career advances to be had based on whether or not you and your child receive all of their vaccinations are making their move to remove you from the role of ultimate decision maker.

In a previous blog post, I brought attention to the fact that Representative Sarah Davis is well-funded by the pharmaceutical industry. In the most recently released campaign financial statement, 30% (over $32,000 of $106,013 total) of Representative Davis’ donations for the months of November and December were from organizations and individuals tied to the medical and pharmaceutical industries. There is no doubt that this massive bank roll is the motivation behind all of the vaccine-related bills coming out of Davis’ office (HB 97, HB 107, HB 120, and HB126). Likewise, Representative Donna Howard’s statement from the same time period shows that 24% (about $15,000 of $60,375) of her funding was from organizations and individuals in pharmaceutical and medical industries. Representative Howard has authored two immunization bills: HB 241 and HB 243. With one-third and one-fourth of Representatives Davis’ and Howard’s current funding coming from the pharmaceutical industry, it is easy to see where their enthusiasm for the push towards mandatory vaccination comes from.

What about these donors? Who are they and what are their motives? The following all make at least one appearance on each of the financial statements mentioned above:

  • Global biopharmaceutical (read: vaccine) company Bristol Meyers Squibb
  • vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Eli Lily, and GlaxoSmithCline
  • individual doctors (local and otherwise)
  • a political action committee representing United Health Group
  • the Texas Medical Association
  • a political action committee representing hospitals (HOSPAC)
  • Friends of Baylor Medical (more on this one later)
  • and a company named Deloitte (more on this one later)

It’s pretty obvious why a biopharmaceutical company and vaccine manufacturers would want to invest in politicians willing to degrade the process of informed consent, complicate the vaccine exemption process, and advance the mandatory vaccine agenda — their bottom line depends on it. However, it may be less obvious to the casual observer exactly why insurance companies, hospitals, and individual doctors would feel compelled to fund this legislation. There is, of course, the obvious public health aspect. They believe that vaccines are in the best interest of public health.  But could there be more to it?

An organization called The National Committee for Quality Assurance ranks insurance companies. High immunization rates among an insurance company’s providers will earn a higher quality rating for that insurance company. With that high quality rating, a company is eligible to receive federal funds. MONEY.

What about the individual private practice doctors donating to Representatives Davis and Howard? Well, in an effort to secure their higher ranking and federal funding, insurance companies provide financial incentives to providers in their network for having a certain percentage of fully vaccinated patients. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield in Minnesota offers their providers a $400 bonus for each fully immunized two year old in their office that year. Fifty fully vaccinated two year olds will earn them a $20,000 bonus, 100 fully vaccinated two year olds will earn them a $40,000 bonus, etc.

Here’s the catch: in order to receive the bonus for any of these two year olds, at least 63% of ALL PATIENTS in that practice must be fully vaccinated, flu shot and all. Your child’s delayed schedule could cost your pediatrician their entire annual bonus (perhaps the reason so many patients following personalized immunization schedules are “fired” by their doctors).

Blue Cross Blue Shield offers their Tennessee providers a similar deal. This would certainly be enough motivation for private practice doctors to pressure legislators to move towards mandatory vaccination.

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Lastly, I looked at hospitals. As with the other groups discussed here, there are numerous reasons why a hospital may want to reduce or eliminate personal vaccine choice, but I found one reason to be particularly interesting. A 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal reported on a new program that went into effect that year requiring hospitals to report staff flu vaccination rates to the CDC. Hospitals that do not report their rates would lose their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. According to the article, “The American Hospital Association estimates a hospital with 100 beds or more could forfeit $320,000 in payments.” Author of the article, Laura Landro, states, “It’s really a bottom line issue now.” Additionally, Medicare publishes the rates of each reporting hospital on its Hospital Compare website, presumably so consumers can choose the hospital with the highest employee vaccination rates. I’m sure these hospitals would love to see the end of employees’ religious exemptions affecting their bottom line.

Earlier, I mentioned Friends of Baylor Medical and Deloitte as being regular contributors to both Representatives Davis and Howard. These became especially significant to this topic when I began looking into the funding behind a local organization called The Immunization Partnership (TIP). They are very outspoken and involved politically with their stated goal of “eradicating vaccine preventable diseases in Texas.” In their biennial stakeholder reports, they repeatedly write of the necessity to eliminate “exemptions of convenience” (conscientious exemptions) and “non-medical” exemptions. Looking through TIP’s most recent donor list, I noticed that there, among the usual suspects of GSK, Merck, and Pfizer, was a company named Deloitte. Interestingly, a Deloitte employee is also on TIP’s board of directors. Deloitte is a UK based consulting firm. According to their website, “Deloitte helps our BioPharma clients to pursue growth opportunities and manage scientific, business, and regulatory challenges in an ever-changing marketplace.” “BioPharma” = vaccines, and “growth opportunities” = higher profits. They boast of representing 90% of the 15 largest pharmaceutical companies. I would say this blows that whole “vaccines aren’t profitable” argument right out of the water. Vaccine manufacturers have hired this global consulting firm that ensures they “pursue growth opportunities” and donate to organizations and politicians whose goals are to drastically increase (mandate) the demand for their product.

Paid-off politicians passing laws to mandate purchase of their product, suppliers in all levels of the chain financially subsidized by the government (in addition to their profits) for promoting their product, consumers punished socially and economically for not using their product, and NO LIABILITY for them anywhere along the line — pretty cushy deal for the vaccine manufacturers.

Friends of Baylor Medical is also a frequent top donor to both Representative Davis and Representative Howard. I would guess it to be no coincidence that Immunization Partnership board member Dr. Peter Hotez (whose wife Ann is among Representative Davis’ November/December donors) is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He is also the president of the Sabine Vaccine Institute, an organization whose stated mission is “developing new vaccines (and) advocating for increased use of existing vaccines.” The Sabine Product Development Partnership (the “product” here being vaccines, of course) relocated to Houston in 2011. Their laboratories are located in Texas Children’s Hospital, which is coincidentally in Representative Davis’ district.

The Immunization Partnership laid out their goals regarding immunizations in Texas in their most recent stakeholder report. Notice how four out of six of their “key priorities” line up with Representative Davis’ and Representative Howard’s bills:

1. Combat misinformation regarding vaccines through improved education…. (HB 126 & HB 241)
2. Reduce the number of non-medical exemptions to school vaccine requirements. (again, HB 126 & HB 241)
3. Improve the efficiency of the Texas Immunization Registry, ImmTrac. (HB 243)
4. Identify and implement strategies to prevent HPV-related cancers. (HB 97 & HB 107)

Clearly, this is an issue that affects these organizations’ bottom lines and these individuals’ pocketbooks. According to the most recent documents publicly available, President and CEO of The Immunization Partnership, Anna Dragsbaek, earned over $170,000 in 2014. There is currently $95 MILLION in the state senate’s budget allotted to a program by the name of “Immunize Texas Children and Adults”.

This is obviously big business for a lot of people.

Our bottom line here at TFVC: YOU call the shots when it comes to your health and the health of your family. There is a price on the head of your medical freedom of choice. People with questionable motives are seeking to replace your best judgement with their money-motivated mandates. Will you let them?

Contact Representative Davis and Representative Howard and politely let them know that you value parental choice and informed consent!

Representative Sarah Davis: (512) 463-0389
Representative Donna Howard: (512) 463-0631

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