Baseless “Anti-Vax” Attacks Against Dr. Jill Stein Distract from Her Call to End the Corrupting Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry Within the FDA

This is the Jill Stein for President campaign’s official response to a recent series of attacks in the press that falsely accused Dr. Stein of “pandering” to the anti-vaccination movement. These attacks began as she called attention to the corrupting influence of the pharmaceutical industry within the FDA’s regulatory process.

Dr. Jill Stein has repeatedly articulated her support for vaccinations in interviews and online. The online fact-checking website has debunked accusations claiming Dr. Stein opposes the use of vaccines. The conspiracy theory that Dr. Stein is “anti-science” is becoming a bizarre new counterpart of the “birther”controversy that hounded President Obama’s candidacy in 2008.

Stein noted, “Anyone who supports vaccinations and wishes to prevent dropping vaccination rates should be concerned about the erosion of public trust caused by the corrupting influence of the pharmaceutical industry in regulatory agencies and government in general.”

Dr. Stein voices widely-shared concerns that the pharmaceutical industry exerts undue influence in our regulatory institutions – as well as on the politicians to whom they donate.

Concerns over the influence of industry lobbying have been well-documented by researchers and mainstream journalists. For example, the Washington Post – which had used Dr. Stein’s comments in an interview last week to engage in baseless speculation regarding “anti-vaxxer” sympathies – published an article in 2012 voicing a similar critique. In 2015, TIME Magazine raised serious concerns about the industry connections of current FDA commissioner Dr. Robert Califf. Senator Bernie Sanders said he opposed Califf’s nomination because he “was not convinced that [Califf] would stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, one of the most powerful special interests in Washington.” Publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times also voiced similar concerns.

A prime example of how the US government’s lax regulation of the pharmaceutical industry has eroded public trust is the drug Vioxx. The FDA approved Vioxx in 1999 as a pain reliever for arthritis, before its manufacturer pulled it from the market in 2004 after disclosures that it had withheld information about risks from doctors and patients for at least five years, causing up to 140,000 serious cases of heart disease. The FDA scientist who led the research team that discovered the dangers of Vioxx has said that the FDA attempted to stop him from publishing his findings. Just last year, a bipartisan House vote overwhelmingly passed The 21st Century Cures Act, which loosens regulations in order to fast-track new drug approvals, a measure opposed by 60% of American voters.

A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that between 2009 and 2011, drug, biotech and medical device companies spent a whopping $700 million lobbying Congress and the Obama administration. The lion’s share of pharmaceutical industry money in the 2016 presidential race has gone to Hillary Clinton, who has received $3,888,202 from Big Pharma to date.

Those who incorrectly label questions about corporate influence over regulators as “anti-science” are disregarding the key scientific principle that absence of proof is not proof of absence. Science is a method of asking questions that doesn’t always provide the comforting certainty that the media demands from politicians.

We hope the press will raise these same questions to other candidates in the race, who continue to refuse to consider a single-payer healthcare system that can offer access to preventative care such as vaccinations to everyone. We hope you will consider asking them about criticisms that they are pandering to the health insurance industry.