Report: More than Half of CDC Staff Leave for Big Pharma


Exterior of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters is seen on October 13, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.
(Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)


A recent study reveals that over half of the staff from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) go on to work for Big Pharma, highlighting a “revolving door” phenomenon between federal workers and private healthcare companies that potentially makes government agencies vulnerable to corruption.

Between 2004 and 2020, 54 percent of workers who left the CDC for another job moved into the private health sector. This trend is not just limited to the CDC; over a third of people appointed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) leave to take jobs in the private healthcare sector, and 53 percent of employees at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also move to the private sector.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, also indicates that a significant number of new staff hired by government health agencies come directly from private drug firms. “Our findings suggest that the revolving door phenomenon is not surprising, but it raises concerns about biases in government decision making,” the authors of the study wrote. They noted that higher salaries in the biopharmaceutical industry may attract employees from government agencies.

In addition, the report calls for the expansion of federal “cooling off” laws to prohibit former government employees from immediately lobbying on behalf of private organizations. Currently, these laws require government ex-employees to wait one year after leaving health agencies before lobbying or having any communication with their former agency on behalf of anyone seeking official action. However, the authors of the study believe these laws don’t go far enough to prevent biases in government decision-making.

The investigation also found that Republican presidents are more likely to appoint people directly from the industry. Using the Plum Book, which collects the names of HHS employees occupying appointed positions, the study found that 15 percent of HHS employees had been employed in the private industry immediately before their appointment in government. Almost a third of HHS employees left their roles for industry positions, with the industry being the most common next destination after working at HHS.


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