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Conflicts of Interest in Pfizer Vaccine Trial

(by Informed Consent Action Network) – Oh what a tangled web pharma weaves with its arbiters of vaccine safety. Appointed in secret, meeting in secret, identities kept secret, and all paid by the companies they are supposed to oversee. What could possibly go wrong?!

ICAN’s attorneys have done some more digging since we warned in 2020 that the Data and Safety Monitoring Boards (DSMBs) overseeing vaccine trials were compromised by financial ties to Big Pharma. Now, thanks to the dogged FOIA efforts of ICAN’s attorneys to research documents produced from Pfizer’s biological product file, we see just how deep the corruption goes.

Among the latest cache of documents extracted from the FDA is a 61-page document, entitled Investigational BNT162 Vaccine Program, which describes Pfizer’s internal-review mechanism for the Covid-19 vaccine trials it conducted in 2020 and 2021. Pages 51 and 52 list five original members of Pfizer’s ‘External Data Monitoring Committee’ (EDMC), its own DSMB, with two more members added in February 2021.  (Interestingly, these two members are both Maternal Fetal Medicine doctors).

Of the original five members, we knew of one early on because a CBS articlerevealed in September 2020, apparently by mistake, the inclusion of Kathryn Edwards, MD, a professor at Vanderbilt University. In case you missed our earlier briefing about her, here’s a brief recap: She was a paid advisor to Pfizer directly before joining the DSMB. She has also received payments, speaking fees, or funding from numerous pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna, Merck, and Smith-Kline Beecham, while Sanofi provided her with trips to Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Cancun, among other destinations. Nice work if you can get it!

But surely she would be forthcoming about all such connections, right? Well, in her July 2020 presentation to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), titled COVID‑19 Vaccine Safety Considerations, the conflict conveniently was never disclosed despite the fact that she had been on a COVID-19 DSMB for over 3 months at that point!

Now, we finally have the names of the other DSMB members too. But before we look at them, here’s a reminder of what NIAID director Anthony Fauci, told an interviewer in September 2020. The DSMBs, he said, are “beholden to no one, not to the president, not to the vaccine companies, not to the FDA. Not to me.”

Well, this certainly doesn’t stand up in the case of Kathryn Edwards, but how accurate is Fauci’s pronouncement when it comes to the other members of Pfizer’s DSMB reviewing vaccine trial data? Here’s a thumbnail sketch:

Jonathan Zenilman, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, was the chair of the committee. He received consulting fees from Pfizer in every year from 2014 to 2020 to the tune of $78,279 ($28,168 in 2020 alone). Beyond that, he received $6,045.09 in compensation from being wined and dined, and travelling at Pfizer’s expense between 2014 and 2019. His other Big Pharma patrons over these years include GSK, Merck, Smith & Nephew, Cubist, Siemens Medical Solutions, Cipla, Tetraphase Pharma, The Medicines Company, K2M, Becton, Dickinson and Company, Perrigo, and Theravance. Between 2014 and 2020, Dr. Zenilman received an astonishing $91,257.69 from these pharmaceutical companies (including Pfizer) excluding research funding. In addition, Zenilman has received NIH funding.

Robert Belshe, MD, founder of the Center for Vaccine Development at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, received various consulting fees and compensation from Pfizer, GSK, Dermira, Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Merck, Emergent Biosolutions, Comsort, Seqirus, Novartis, and Viiv Healthcare during every year from 2014 to 2020, and from AstraZeneca every year from 2014 to 2018. “How much” you ask? An incredible total of $452,794.26, excluding research funding. Pfizer was especially forthcoming with consulting fees, speaking fees, and generous helpings of “Food and Beverage” and “Travel and Lodging,” compensating him $36,225 in 2020 alone.  Dr. Belshe disclosed his own conflicts in a 2019 article: Belshe has been a consultant and/or speaker for GSK, Medimmune, Sanofi, Flugen, Novavax, Merck, and Moderna; owns stock/stock options in Flugen; is a scientific board member for Flugen; and has served on data safety monitoring board for GSK, MedImmune, Vical, and Vaxart. 

Lawrence Stanberry, MD, of Columbia University, received more than $23,000 from Pfizer in 2020, as well as research funding from the NIH, CDC, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.   He reports consulting fees from Janssen, GSK, and Novartis and is a member of the scientific advisory board of Abivax.  Nothing to see here!

Robert Philips Heine, MD, of Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, NC, received $27,450.28 in payments from pharmaceutical companies between 2014 and 2020 for travel and lodging, food and beverage, and consulting fees. Pfizer provided the bulk of these payments with $4,812.50 for consulting fees in 2020 alone. Heine has been a consultant and speaker for GSK and Merck and has received research funding from GSK. His work has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Heather S. Lipkind, MS, MS, of Yale School of Medicine, accepted consulting fees and research funding from Pfizer during 2019 and 2020, for a total of $21,660.

Steve Self, PhD, a statistician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is also a board member of Health Stream Analytics, an organization developing “novel easy-to-use biometric sensors.”

We’ve said it before, but now we’re saying it again, and louder: the individuals involved with overseeing and green-lighting Covid-19 injections are a cozy club of insiders whose pockets are now further richly lined with Big Pharma spoils.

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