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News Archives 4661-4680
Number Title Post Date
4661 Julian Assange extended interview - the Guardian libel 12/04/2011 08:56:38
4662 Toddler given MMR vaccine without parental consent to meet government targets 12/04/2011 09:03:05
4663 Swine Flu Vaccine - More Swedish Children Diagnosed With Narcolepsy 12/04/2011 09:05:37
4664 NHF Debates Aspartame, Aluminum and Melamine Standards 13/04/2011 14:33:54
4665 Stop the Secrecy: Join Our Call for Official Visits to Bradley Manning 13/04/2011 14:37:38
4666 In defence of Julian Assange: a response to Esther Addley's review of the whistleblowing debate in The Guardian 13/04/2011 14:42:01
4667 When The Government Comes Knocking... 13/04/2011 14:49:07
4668 Andy Burnham MP - Get With The MMR Vaccine Programme 13/04/2011 14:52:38
4669 Oppose Nevada Bill That Makes Practicing Natural Medicine Without Licence A Felony 14/04/2011 13:27:16
4670 One Last Goodbye: Sometimes only a mother's love can help end the pain 14/04/2011 13:40:29
4671 Mother fears for soldier son held in US over alleged WikiLeaks data 14/04/2011 13:43:57
4672 Demo @ Royal Courts Of Justice in support of Julian Assange 14/04/2011 13:47:51
4673 The WikiLeaks conundrum — one size cannot fit all 14/04/2011 13:52:23
4674 What’s new about WikiLeaks? 14/04/2011 13:55:35
4675 Anti-smoking lobby recommends drug linked to numerous deaths 14/04/2011 13:59:55
4676 Patients in US Hospitals At High Risk Harm from Professional Negligence 14/04/2011 14:02:24
4677 Maine Legislators Consider Two Bills On Vaccination 14/04/2011 14:04:39
4678 Bill Gates: Foundations, Conflicts Of Interest And Drugmakers 14/04/2011 14:17:13
4679 Libya and the gift of war and racism 17/04/2011 11:11:20
4680 New form cons UK claimants out of benefits 17/04/2011 11:13:41

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Bill Gates: Foundations, Conflicts Of Interest And Drugmakers
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Foundations, Conflicts Of Interest And Drugmakers

By Ed Silverman // April 13th, 2011

conflictsofinterest211Major philanthropic foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foudation, regularly make the news with their donations and initiatives aimed at improving global health. But there is an aspect to their efforts that may be overlooked - such organizations can have links with drugmakers that could constitute a conflict of interest, according to an analysis published in PLoS Medicine.

The researchers examined the five largest US private and/or family foundations that focus considerably on global health - besides the Gates Foundation, the list included the Ford Foundation; W K Kellogg Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is a philanthropic outgrowth of a Johnson & Johnson founder. They analyzed publicly available endowment disclosures with the US Internal Revenue Service and stock holdings from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. They also examined potential conflicts of interest of individual foundation employees.

What did they find? In some instances, foundation board members sat on the boards of corporations that also may benefit from foundation grants. The opposite was also found to be true - foundation grants are sometimes associated with companies that are represented on a foundation board and are among its investments and partnerships (read the PLoS analysis here).

Bill & Melinda Gates, conflict of interest drugmaker links
(Caption & pic courtesy of One Click)

Take the Gates Foundation. Several members of its management committee, leadership teams, affiliates, and major funders are currently or were previously members of the boards or executive branches of several major drugmakers, including Merck and Novartis (see the commercial network of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation here and here).

A related example: In 2005, the Gates Foundation announced a $107.6 million grant to the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) to extend a public-private partnership between MVI and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals to develop the drugmaker’s malaria vaccine for children in Africa. Three months later, the Gates Foundation hired Tachi Yamada as executive director of its Global Health program. Until then, he chaired Glaxo R&D.

Meanwhile, there are stock holdings. The Gates Foundation holdings are invested in Berkshire Hathaway, which the researchers write has significant ownership in GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis Johnson & Johnson. And the Gates Foundation held stock in Merck at a time when it developed partnerships with the African Comprehensive AIDS and Malaria Partnership and the Merck Company Foundation to test Merck products.

Also, the researchers noted the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation played a leading role in promoting anti-tobacco products and maintains Smoking Cessation Leadership Centers and programs, but owns Johnson & Johnson stock, a leading manufacturer of cessation products. They also pointed out some board members have been represented on both the foundation’s and the company’s boards (see the 990 form here). UPDATE: The share of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation assets comprised of J&J stock is currently $803 million, or just under 9 percent of total assets of $8.8 billion, a spokesman writes us, adding that there are no current overlapping board members.

For a definition of a conflictd, they relied on the World Health Organization, which notes a conflict of interest “can occur when a partner’s ability to exercise judgment in one role is impaired by his or her obligations in another role or by the existence of competing interests…A conflict of interest may exist even if no unethical or improper act results from it. It can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the individual, his/her constituency or organization. Both actual and perceived conflicts of interest can undermine the reputation and work of the Partnership.”

The authors noted that “a private foundation clearly has the legal right to spend money however it wishes within the limits of the law…yet, in an environment where private foundations influence the future direction of, for example, what programs will be introduced into a foreign community, in a manner that does not necessarily involve directorship or voting from the community- members themselves, it is reasonable to subject the decision-making processes of these entities to public debate, especially if these funds were to have otherwise been collected for public redistribution through federal taxation…

“While private foundations adopt standard disclosure protocols for employees to mitigate potential conflicts of interests, these do not always apply to the overall endowment investments of the foundations or to board membership appointments,” they conclude. “The extent and range of relationships between tax-exempt foundations and for-profit corporations suggest that transparency or grant-making recusal of employees alone may not be preventing potential conflicts of interests between global health programs and their financing.”

Related Links:
* Microsoft's Bill Gates Promotes Vaccine Eugenics
F. William Engdahl
* Bill Gates Media Funding Taints Objectivity
Sandi Doughton & Kristi Heim, The Seattle Times

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