CDC Director resigns over tobacco stock scandal

pharmafile | January 31, 2018 | News story | Medical Communications Brenda Fitzgerald, CDC, US, pharma 

Dr Brenda Fitzgerald, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States’ leading national public health institute, has resigned from her post amidst controversy surrounding financial conflicts of interest.

The decision is thought to be in response to a report by Politico that unveiled documents indicating that Dr Fitzgerald bought between $1,001 and $15,000 in Japanese tobacco stocks just one month into her role – a clear contravention of the CDC’s raison d’etre, particularly when it comes to preventing smoking and tobacco-related disease, which remains the top preventable cause of death in the American public.

In November, Fitzgerald was quoted as saying: “Too many Americans are harmed by cigarette smoking, which is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death and disease,” promising to “continue to use proven strategies to help smokers quit and to prevent children from using any tobacco products.”

She sold the shares on 26 October, and all of her holdings above $1,000 by 21 November. The report also indicated that she had invested in MSD and Bayer, as well as health insurance firm  Humana. She had not previously divested these financial interests.

Recently confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar accepted the resignation. Dr Fitzgerald had been in the role since July last year. She had previously served as the Director of the Georgia Division of Public Health.

“Dr Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director,” commented Matt Lloyd, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services. “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”

Matt Fellows

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