Merck’s Ambition to Become the New Monsanto
Richard Gale and Gary Null
Progressive Radio Network, May 21, 2019
At one time Monsanto was frequently named as the “most hated” firm. Even US Today was obliged to list it among the “20 most-hated companies,” alongside Facebook, Fox Entertainment, Cigna, Wells Fargo and the Trump Organization. In 2011, Monsanto earned its highest award as the world’s worst company in an international poll. A Nielsen poll ranked it third that same year. Throughout its sordid history of exploitation, flawed science, concealing unfavorable research data, ghostwriting, faux professional journals as a ruse to promote its products, and covert public relations strategies, Monsanto has been a health risk for tens of millions of people around the globe. Before its first genetically modified recombinant bovine growth hormone for dairy products and GMO crop seeds, the company brought us toxic DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, the neurotoxic artificial sweetener aspartame, and its noxious Copper-7 intrauterine contraceptive device. Perhaps no other corporation has been more deserving to stir up such public anger that would mobilize over 2 million protesters to join anti-Monsanto rallies in over 50 countries on a single day. Now we believe we may have found another company that may challenge Monsanto for its history of corruption, scientific denialism and greed.
Competition for the most-hated distinction is fierce. There are many deserving multinational corporations to loathe and scorn. Exxon and BP for their utter disregard of the environment. Goldman Sachs and the Bank of America. Amazon, Google, Uber, WalMart and of course Facebook. The entire private military industrial complex. However, Monsanto built its contemptible reputation on a culture of greed and deception that has put humanity’s health at serious risk. Numerous people have been injured or died from its products. Therefore, the criteria for our search is measured by the amount of harm inflicted against public health for the sole purpose of generating profits to create executive millionaires and to please shareholders. If our federal health agencies were a publicly traded company it might surely be in the running for a top position. Iatraogenic medicine, or medical error, is now the third leading cause of death in the US after cardiovascular disease and cancer. The majority of these deaths are caused by FDA approved drugs’ adverse effects and from patients taking multiple medications without any clinical research to determine the safety of their synergistic effects. Our health agencies’ oversight and monitoring of drugs on the market is dismal. And it often takes years for the agencies to act after the first signs of red flashings and siren.
Aside from the US government, which private corporation has likely killed more people than any terrorist organization or military regime changes Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere? For us, the answer is evident: Merck and Company. Therefore we are casting our vote for this pharmaceutical giant to replace Monsanto as worthy of international repudiation.
One of the worst corporate deals the US government may have ever made in modern history was to acquire the American subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical firm Merck and Company during the first world war. Later in 1953, Merck acquired a competitive drug maker Sharp and Dohme, thereby establishing itself as America’s largest drug developer and manufacturer. Since then this corporate octopus has ensnared thirteen other drug firms, including Scherring Plough, which it acquired for $41 billion. The two pharmaceutical giants had earned $47 billion in combined sales at the time the merger was finalized in 2009.
Merck started its life of crime properly in the 1970s. In 1975, it was busted by the SEC for illegal payments to foreign government officials from “approximately” 36 nations. The scam was orchestrated through personal bank accounts with the sole purpose of advancing drug approvals through foreign nations’ regulatory medical agencies.
One of the largest frauds in modern medical history was Merck’s anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx, which later resulted in fines above $4.8 billion for causing over 60,000 deaths from sudden heart attacks and over 120,000 serious medical injuries. At its height, Vioxx was earning over $2 billion in revenues annually and it is estimated that 25 million patients were prescribed the medication. The securities class action suit against the company alone reached $1 billion, placing it in the top 15 securities lawsuits in US corporate history. The centerpiece of the crime was Merck’s intentional withholding scientific data about Vioxx’s adverse cardiovascular side effects.
Years after the settlement, Ron Unz, the publisher of The American Conservative, undertook his own investigation to validate Vioxx’s death toll. Analyzing the drug’s adverse effects over a longer time period, Unz estimated Merck may have been responsible for nearly half a million premature deaths in elderly patients, the drug’s primary target group. That is roughly the same number of total civilian, military and terrorist deaths from the US’s military escapades in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan combined.
Merck’s settlement of 47,000 pending lawsuits for personal injuries and 265 class action cases was a small pittance for the harm Vioxx left in its wake. Merck executives were never properly punished for willingly concealing the the drug’s dangers in order to assure FDA approval.
In Australia, Merck’s efforts to increase Vioxx profits employed other forms of malfeasance. The Australian government launched a class action suit against the drug maker on charges that Merck schemed a fake scientific paper that was ghostwritten for a medical journal in order to put Vioxx into a positive light. Testimonies during the trial stated data was completely based upon “wishful thinking.” Merck also founded the peer-reviewed journal Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine. The journal was nothing but a fraud; it was not properly peer-reviewed and its primary purpose was to promote Vioxx on the Australian continent.
Moreover, the class action lawsuit contained Merck emails accessed by Australian officials. The company’s internal communications ordered select employees to draft up a hit list of physicians who were critical of Vioxx. According to the documents, these physicians were targeted to be “neutralized” or “discredited.” Some, including Dr. James Fries at Sanford University’s medical school, were clinical investigators who happened to speak out about the drug’s shortcomings. One email said,”We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live…”
Similarly, Monsanto also earned a reputation of targeting its critics for harassment. This month, Bayer released a public apology for the discovery of a Monsanto hit list of 200 French journalists and politicians who oppose glyphosate and its GMO crops. It has acted similarly in other countries including the US, according to veteran journalist Carey Gillam. The list originated from the multinational public relations firm FleishmanHillard. Merck has also employed FleishmanHillard as well as Monsanto’s other notorious PR firm Ketchum. One of Merck’s Executive Directors, Ian McConnell, earlier served as a vice president at Fleishman. The PR firm’s senior adviser on healthcare Dr. Lukas Pfister, was at Merck for 25 years in its government affairs unit. Merck’s revolving door is not limited to our federal health agencies, but also fully infiltrates some of the world’s most shadowy PR firms with a mission to clean up the public images of executive elites and their corporations.
The good news from the Vioxx debacle was that Merck’s stock cratered 27 percent. Likewise, with lawsuits against Monsanto mounting in Bayer’s legal department, the stock is nosediving. The latest of three court decisions awarded a couple $2 billion for each having contracting non-Hodgkin lymphoma after years of using Roundup, which they were led to believe was completely safe. It is now estimated there will be a minimum of 11,000 lawsuits against Bayer/Monsanto. With the future of Roundup now in question, the entire portfolio of Roundup Ready genetically modified seeds is in jeopardy.
But Merck’s efforts to conceal the dangers of its products, falsify data about it’s drugs’ efficacy and safety and exaggerate its medical claims go back sixty years. In the 1960s, the FDA discovered that the drug maker’s arthritis medication Indocin had not been properly tested for efficacy and its adverse effects were being completely ignored. In the 1970s, Merck’s drug dietheylstilbestrol (DES) prescribed for the prevention of miscarriages caused a flurry of vaginal cancer cases and other gynecological disorders. Merck had all along known that DES was carcinogenic based upon its own animal clinical trials. In 2007, its cholesterol drug Zetia was shown to increase liver disease. Again Merck had known about Zetia’s liver risks but withheld the clinical trial’s damning results.
It would also appear that Merck has managed to hijack courts as well. This includes an early 2019 ruling by Trump’s corporate-friendly US Supreme Court to side with the drug maker and squash hundreds of lawsuits for failing to issue warnings that its osteoporosis drug Fosamax’s may contribute to debilitating bone breaks. Monsanto accomplished the same. The Supreme Court sided with the Big Ag giant to deal a blow against organic farmers who were suing Monsanto for contaminating their fields with genetically modified seeds.
Recently, a federal court in California found that Merck committed perjury for lying in a patent infringement case against Gilead Sciences over the latter’s blockbuster Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi. The judge ruled that Merck carried out a “systematic and outrageous deception in conjunction with unethical business practices and litigation misconduct.” It turned out that Merck’s patent claims were a complete sham and orchestrated by its legal division.
Merck not only makes dangerous medications but it has found itself in the courtroom on many other occasions for price-fixing, routinely defrauding and overbilling states’ Medicare and Medicaid programs, and violating the Anti-Kickback Statute. In 2006, the IRS went after Merck for owing almost $2 billion in back taxes. According to the Wall Street Journal, Merck partnered with a British bank to create an offshore subsidiary in tax-friendly Bermuda to divert taxable revenue on its bestselling cholesterol drugs Zocor and Mevacor through a patent scheme. The company ran the operation for ten years before the FDA uncovered the racket.
Merck is America’s leading vaccine manufacturer. Currently it markets vaccines for Haemophilus B, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (individually and in combination), human papilomavirus (Gardasil), Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), pneumococcal, rotavirus, varicella (chickenpox) and Zoster virus (for shingles). In 2010, Merck obtained exclusive rights to MassBiologics vaccine portfolio. The consequence is that Merck’s Adult Vaccine Portfolio includes 9 of the 10 vaccines on the CDC’s adult immunization schedule. The company now holds almost a full monopoly on the government’s vaccine schedule just as Monsanto had for the most profitable genetically modified crops.
On its website, the FDA assures the public that “Vaccines, as with all products regulated by the FDA, undergo a rigorous review of laboratory and clinical data to ensure the safety, efficacy, purity and potency of these products.” However, except for Gardasil, not a single one of Merck’s vaccines has ever been tested in a scientifically viable double-blinded placebo controlled trial. In each case, the placebo in the control group was not inert, such as the use of plain saline. Rather Merck only tested the vaccine with the viral or bacterial component against a faux placebo containing the same ingredients, including aluminum, but minus the biologic factor. Known as a “carrier solution,” the standard scientific protocol does not designate it has a proper placebo for measuring the efficacy and disease risks of a drug. And in the case of Gardasil, the trial was nothing less than statistical trickery to mask Gardasil’s adverse effects. Therefore the FDA’s claim is patently false. None of Merck’s vaccines have ever undergone a “rigorous review” prior to regulatory approval.
Just as Monsanto was enabled by President Clinton, and every succeeding president, to capture the Department of Agriculture as a means to expand its global hegemony on seeds, genetically modified crops, herbicides and pesticides, Merck has had its official representatives, including scientists shilling for Big Pharma on FDA and CDC advisory boards, to do its financial bidding in the federal health agencies for decades. For this reason, the US’ national vaccine policies are thoroughly influenced and negotiated to conform to private pharmaceutical interests. In the case of the CDC, the agency holds 20 vaccine patents that are licensed to the vaccine makers for substantial royalties. The incentive is profit, not the well-being of average citizens.
In fact, this situation is far worse. In 2007, the FDA Science Board issued a report entitled “FDA Science and Mission at Risk.” The federal agency fully acknowledges its “inability to keep up with scientific advances means that American lives are at risk…. FDA’s evaluation methods have remained largely unchanged over the least half century… The world looks to FDA as a leader… Today, not only can the Agency not lead, it cannot even keep up with the advances of science.” In other words, our federal healthcare system has become so incompetent that it has had to resort to placing its trust in the private drug complex. Merck has taken full advantage of both the FDA’s and CDC’s negligence and shortcomings. Today, Merck and the other largest American drug makers, such as Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Amgen and Bristol-Myers, ARE the de facto regulators of drug efficacy and safety. And the health of every American is trapped in an ineffectual healthcare system that continues to erode.
Today we are witnessing an epidemic of neurological disorders in children. Many of these conditions fall under the umbrella of what was originally known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). At current rates, the CDC estimates that 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with ASD. Fifty years ago it was around 3 in 10,000 children.
In his recent historical detective book, The Autism Vaccine: The Story of Modern Medicine’s Greatest Tragedy, science author Forrest Maready traces the origins of the emergence of a new childhood psychological condition in the mid-1930s that would eventually be termed autism. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, diphtheria was a horrible life-threatening infection taking the lives of thousands of children across Europe and the US. In 1921 alone, diphtheria killed over 15,000 individuals. The first diphtheria vaccines mimicked Jenner’s smallpox inoculation but were largely ineffective.
Happenstance, autistic symptoms were first identified separately on opposite sides of the Atlantic at roughly the same time. In Austria, pediatrician Dr. Hans Asperger was documenting children who displayed a new series of abnormal psychological symptoms. The children were highly intelligent but simultaneously exhibited unusual, erratic and nonsocial behavior. His work remained untranslated and virtually unknown until 1991, when the term “Aspergers” was finally coined for a condition on the autism spectrum. Asperger would later embrace eugenics and collaborate with the Nazis to “euthanize” disabled children at the Am Spiegelgrund clinic.
On the other side of the Atlantic in the US, psychiatrist Dr. Leo Kanner published his major study, “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.” Kanner independently described autistic characteristics similar to Asperger.
The single connecting link between Asperger’s and Kanner’s observations, according to Maready, was that only in Austria and in the US was aluminum salts being added as an adjuvant to the diphtheria vaccine. In the early 1920s, the Philadephia company Mulford Company had isolated the diphtheria toxoid upon which a new vaccine was developed. Merck later absorbed Mulford, and subsequently added aluminum salts as a means to boost the toxoid’s activity to trigger an immune response. This was the first use of an aluminum adjuvant that we could identify. Back in Europe, Merck’s original parent company likewise added aluminum for distribution in Austria. According to Maready’s early history of ASD’s origins, it was the addition of the highly neurotoxic aluminum adjuvant that set the stage for the autistic trend that is now endemic. How much should Merck be held responsible for first triggering our autism crisis?
Merck and all of our federal health agencies continue to deny the serious physical and mental risks from injecting aluminum adjuvants into infants and children. However, new studies are coming forth showing that aluminum is far more toxic than previously believed. Internationally renowned autoimmunologist Yehuda Shoenfeld at Tel Aviv University identified adjuvant-induced autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome that is associated with aluminum hydroxide additives used in vaccines. This autoimmune disease is now being called Shoenfeld Syndrome after its discoverer.
Although not completely innocent from internal unfairness and conflicts of interest, the Cochrane Database Collaboration arguably remains the most reliable resource for analysis of drugs, vaccines and medical devices in the evidence-based medicine establishment. In its 2016 analysis of Merck’s human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil, the investigators were so alarmed they filed a complaint against the European Medical Agency for failing to adequately assess the vaccine’s neurological harms.
In a similar story with Monsanto’s Roundup, Gardasil may very well become the company’s Achilles heel. The development, scientific rationale, fraudulent clinical trials and data reporting, and inside negotiations with federal health officials to market the vaccine to pre-teen and teen girls and boys, is a story riddled with misconduct. Today it is Merck’s third largest revenue-generating drug after its cancer drug Keytruda and diabetes drug Januvia, earning $3.1 billion in 2018. Its MMR vaccine is fifth having earned $1.8 billion. Gardasil’s success has absolutely nothing to do with the prevention of an urgent national health need. Instead it was a business strategy through Merck’s influence over our nation’s regulatory agencies and state politicians whose election campaigns it funds.
Among all vaccination injuries recorded in the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), Gardasil leads the pack. As of this year, there are over 60,000 reports of adverse reactions for Gardasil! Of those 60,000, over 400 were deaths, over 900 were life threatening, almost 3000 were permanent disability, over 6,000 led to hospitalizations, and over 15,000 led to emergency room visits for serious reactions. All told, one in six of the adverse reactions were categorized as “disabled” and “serious.”
In 2018, a French oncologist, Dr. Gerard Delepine, stumbled upon a correlation between the increase of cervical cancer rates with the rising rates of Gardasil vaccinations. Delepine also compared France, which was deliberating on whether to mandate HPV vaccination, with other countries that relied upon pap smears as a preventative measure rather than the vaccine. He observed that in all countries that prioritized pap smears, cervical cancer rates were decreasing; whereas, in those countries with higher HPV vaccination compliance, the rates increased. In his letter to the French government in defiance of Merck’s lobbying efforts, Delephine stated:
“A compulsory health measure should not be based on faith in vaccination or hidden conflicts of interest, but on proven facts, verifiable by every citizen. However, the facts established by the official records of cancer registries show that HPV vaccination does not protect against invasive cancer of the cervix, but seems rather to maintain its frequency at a high level and sometimes even increase it.”
An article published in the French journal Agoravox noted that more national health ministries are coming around to acknowledge that Gardasil is an extremely unsafe vaccine. Japan, Austria and Denmark no longer promote it due to is trail of injuries with fatal consequences. Public demonstrations against Merck’s Gardasil have occurred in Japan, Colombia, and Ireland.
Yet none of these efforts to warn the public about Gardasil’s risks have reached the American media. Hopefully this may change. Medical researchers at the University of South Alabama recently presented their paper at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s annual conference. There is great disparity between HPV vaccine compliance across Alabama counties, which range anywhere between 33 and 66 percent. Yet the epidemiological data suggests there is no evidence that Gardasil lowered cancer rates in counties with higher vaccine uptake. Moreover, there is zero chance of pre-teens and teens getting cervical cancer. The average age for the onset of the cancer is 50 years. Nor has the vaccine been on the market long enough to determine whether it protects a woman when she reaches even close to that age. Its product insert for physicians states the vaccine “may not result in protection in all vaccine recipients” and it “has not been demonstrated to prevent HPV-related CIN 2/3 [abnormal pre-cancerous cervical cells] or worse in women older than 26 years of age.” Consequently, there is absolutely no scientific rationale for states to mandate the HPV vaccine for schoolchildren let alone even vaccinating them in the first place. Moreover the federal agencies and Merck market the vaccine under a false pretext that HPV infection is the leading cause of cervical cancer; correctly, only a third of cervical cancer cases are caused by the virus.
Robert Kennedy Jr is currently taking steps to sue Merck over the Gardasil Deception. His in-depth investigations through his Children’s Health Defense organization has uncovered evidence that the vaccine increases birth defects in children conceived of HPV-vaccinated moms; miscarriages have increased 200-fold above normal, and girls are experiencing serious reproductive complications, including infertility, at approximately ten-fold above the normal rate. Across the nation, politicians from both sides of the aisle in state legislatures are doing Merck’s bidding to mandate Gardasil for all girls and boys for entering school. Kennedy was a co-counsel in one of the recent victories in the Monsanto Roundup Cancer litigation. Now he is turning his attention towards Merck.
During Merck’s own Gardasil clinical trials, 2.3 percent of girls and women between the ages of 9 through 26 developed a serious autoimmune disease and crippling neurological disorders within seven months of vaccination. Among the 10,700 who received the actual vaccine, 245 (2.3%) had an autoimmune disorder; among the 9,412 who received either an “AAHS Control” — the aluminum hydrophosphate sulfate adjuvant solution with other ingredients minus the HPV virus vectors, there were 218 (2.3%) life-threatening injuries. The most frequent adverse effects were arthritis and antrhopathy, autoimmune thyroiditis, celiac disease, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, rheumatoid arthritis and uveitis. In other words, it was the aluminum adjuvant responsible for this enormous suffering. Reporting about his analysis on a broadcast over the Progressive Radio Network, Kennedy noted that according to Merck’s own statistics, girls are one hundred times more likely to experience a serious adverse effect from the vaccine than to be protected from cervical cancer.
During one particular Gardasil trial that Merck conducted for the approval of the vaccine to boys and girls as young as 9 years of age, Kennedy discovered that the vaccines and “carrier solution” placebo used had only half the amount of aluminum from that sold in the market place. This would substantial our suspicion that Merck is fully aware of the large body of scientific research validating aluminum’s neurotoxic properties. By lessening the aluminum amounts during the clinical trial, the company was able to submit documents to the FDA that lessened the Gardasil’s real potential for causing serious harm.
In a 2012 article published in the Journal of Law and Medical Ethics, researchers at the University of British Columbia wrote that ever since Gardasil was approved in 2006, Merck has engaged in an “overly aggressive marketing strategies and lobbying campaigns aimed at promoting Gardasil as a mandatory vaccine.” One strategy Merck often employs is to take advantage of FDA loopholes to fast track its drugs. In the case of its expanded Gardasil-9 for adults between the ages of 27 to 45, the company applied for fast tracking two days after the Journal of Toxicological and Environmental Health published a study that the HPV vaccine was lowering the probability of pregnancy for women in their 20s.
Unfortunately, the media has indiscriminately colluded with Merck’s scam. Drug companies, according to Robert Kennedy, pay $4.5 billion to the major media networks and publications to promote their drugs. And none of the media outlets are willing to sacrifice their profits for advertising drugs on moral and ethical grounds.
One telling example of Merck’s political and social influence over the national perception about vaccines was its behind the scenes aggression against the flim Vaxxed. When the documentary film was officially selected to screen during th 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, we discovered in an earlier report that Merck left its fingerprints on the film’s removal and censorship. The Alfred Sloan Foundation is the festival’s largest sponsor; pro-vaccine advocate Bill Gates is also a notable contributor. One of the leading persons on the Foundation’s board of trustees is Dr. Peter Kim. Kim happens to be the former president of Merck’s Research Laboratories who was directly responsible for the launch of Gardasil and Merck’s other vaccines for the Zoster virus and rotavirus. The film presents a harsh indictment against Dr Julie Gerberding, the former head of the CDC who coordinated the cover up of data that confirmed vaccine mercury’s role in the onset of autism. After managing the agency’s operations to mine sweep the data and generate new manipulated studies with public funds to suggest thimerosal’s safety, Gerberding accepted her reward from the pharmaceutical industry by becoming the head of Merck’s vaccine division. In addition, according to the whistleblowing of a senior CDC scientist, Dr. William Thompson, Gerberding was responsible for destroying the CDC’s research that showed African American boys were at a substantially higher risk of becoming autistic from Merck’s Measle, Mumps and Rubella vaccine. Fortunately, Dr. Thompson, who was present during the order to shred documents, saved copies which he subsequented turned over to Congressman Bill Posy and an independent biologist Prof. Brian Hooker. Since then, the Congress has failed to deliberate on the matter.
All told, these examples of Merck’s culture of greed, deception, political maneuvering and illegal aggression has collectively damaged lives of countless people. Merck is a global corporation. Its products, like Monsanto’s, are marketed globally. To better understand Merck, the company should be perceived foremost as a cash cow for Wall Street. Its prime directive is selling drugs; it holds no sincere commitment in preventing and treating disease. The full extent of the casualties from Merck’s drugs and vaccines may never be properly calculated. Similarly, we may never know exactly how many deaths Monsanto’s carcinogenic Roundup herbicide is responsible for in developing countries. For firms such as Merck and Monsanto, injuries and deaths are the necessary collateral damage of getting poorly tested products on the market and as fast as possible. Therefore we should all be placed on warning. Merck may very well mutate into the new Monsanto.