By MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned Wednesday over financial conflicts of interest involving her investments in health care businesses.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s complex financial investments presented conflicts that made it difficult to do her job, according to a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC. In an ethics agreement filed in September, Fitzgerald had said that legal and contractual restrictions prevented her from selling the two investments.
A new HHS head, Alex Azar, who took office on Monday, accepted her resignation Wednesday, effective immediately.
Fitzgerald’s investments were “limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as CDC Director,” HHS spokesman Matt Lloyd said in the statement. “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”
Fitzgerald’s resignation follows a news report Tuesday that her financial manager bought tobacco and drug stocks after she took the job in July, while selling other stocks that posed a conflict of interest.
Before she became the CDC’s chief, she owned a range of stocks, including holdings in beer and soda companies, the tobacco company Philip Morris International, and a number of health care companies. She said she sold the stocks, but in December, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote Fitzgerald saying she was concerned about the unresolved financial holdings.
In the ethics agreement, Fitzgerald discussed long-term investments in an electronic medical records company and a biotech startup that focuses on early cancer detection. She said in the agreement that she would not participate in matters that might affect those companies. Those investments prevented her from talking about cancer and prescription drug monitoring programs, Murray wrote.
On Tuesday, Politico reported that a month after becoming CDC director, Fitzgerald’s financial manager bought new stocks, including shares in Japan Tobacco and the drug companies Bayer and Merck & Co. Those stocks were later sold, Politico reported.
Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment. Her predecessor, Dr. Tom Frieden, said he talked to her after the Politico story came out, and Fitzgerald told him she didn’t…