How Government Is Standing in the Way of Lifesaving American Innovation

In plague times, politicians and physicians alike need to embrace the fundamental teaching of the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.” How then are we to understand the harm that a problem, COVID-19,and the “cure”—quarantine and its attendant economic catastrophe—that seems to be worse than the disease?

The current national state of emergency is as revelatory as it is sudden. It shows us both what we should do and what we shouldn’t. Let us be clear, to borrow a favorite phrase of a previous president: America First companies can protect us—if only bureaucrats get out of the way.

President Trump could order his administration to use America’s companies and tell his public health authorities that they’ve done quite enough—which is to say they’ve done far too little to prepare for the crisis.

We should use American companies to do contact tracing of the ill, and allow start-ups that want to administer at-home coronavirus tests to do so. Yet rather than acknowledge that extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary dispensations, our FDA stops U.S. innovators at every turn, preferring to do business with intellectual property thieves like the Chinese Communist-backed Beijing Genomics Institute, a state-owned entity currently in yet another legal fight with an American company.

President Trump Needs To Tell Fauci, the NIH, and the FDA: “You’re Fired!”

Recent history provides too many examples of institutional failure. We have already examined how lacking Dr. Anthony Fauci is now and has been before and during the HIV/AIDS crisis. He is a fraud. Whether he is a crook or a fool is perhaps open to interpretation.

“Despite President Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus, the federal funding powerhouse led by Dr. Anthony Fauci isn’t spending any money on it, and clinical trials for it are lagging behind other drug studies,” CNN reports.

Instead Fauci has been touting Remdesivir from Gilead through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Gilead’s Remdesivir costs thousands of dollars and works less well than hydroxychloroquine—a generic that has worked all over the world. Remdesivir requires intravenous administration and has stronger side effects.

Why is the good doctor pushing a bad cure?

What motivates Fauci, as anyone can see from his many interviews and long career, is fame.

Vanity must be his favorite of the seven deadly sins. And deadly it has been—just not for Fauci.  HIV/AIDS activists wisely picked up on this character trait and shamed Fauci into doing more after years of inaction, as even fawning portrayals of Fauci acknowledge. ACT UP, having bent Fauci to its will, finally got him to act—but not before thousands of gay men perished. Then, as now, Fauci left patients in limbo while he cultivated his ties to the drug manufacturers.

Fauci works closely with Gilead and other drug manufacturers. Once again Gilead has helped advance Fauci’s public persona while he has advanced their drugs, sometimes even against the interests of the U.S. government or HIV/AIDS patients.

Fauci even praised a Gilead television ad for Truvada, or PreP, a $1,000-a-month drug. It’s illegal in most countries for pharmaceutical companies to advertise, but Fauci found much to like in the ad. He had reason to. After all, his organization funded the study with your money.

“What I really liked about the ad is it didn’t just say go get on PrEP; it said get tested,” Fauci told NBC News in 2018. “A, get tested. B, there are more options to protect yourself.”

Fauci has also spoken at events funded by Gilead and other pharmaceutical companies.

Later, President Trump’s HHS sued Gilead alleging that the drug manufacturer had profited from millions of taxpayer funded research dollars against the interests of patients. Gilead lost the suit right around the time it needed a new drug to help it take off. With few drugs available for the coronavirus, Daniel O’Day, Gilead’s new CEO only been on the job months—turned to Remdesivir, a drug marketed toward solving the Ebola virus. Remdesivir failed at that, too. Indeed Congolese officials found too expensive and too ineffective compared to cheaper alternatives.

“The results were most striking for patients who received treatments soon after becoming sick, when their viral loads were still low—death rates dropped to 11 percent with mAb114 and just 6 percent with Regeneron’s drug, compared with 24 percent with ZMapp and 33 percent with Remdesivir,” wrote Wired’s Megan Molteni.

Sound familiar? The same thing has been true of the ultracheap hydroxychloroquine which has proven effective nearly everywhere it’s been tried—if tried early enough.

For this reason alone, it is unconscionable that there are delays in testing results, thanks to the FDA’s byzantine rules that make it easier for Communist Chinese companies to test while hobbling U.S. firms.

Gilead is left with a huge stockpile of Remdesivir that is too expensive and too unnecessary—they’ll have more on the way once they are approved, they promise! Fauci has once again used taxpayer resources to force patients into a lengthy and ridiculous clinical trial process for the drug—only this time its Americans desperate for hope as opposed to Africans. If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail, fail again.

With Fauci’s credibility invested in Gilead, we ought to ask to see Fauci and his family’s portfolio too, especially after he publicly admitted that he would take hydroxychloroquine.

Then again, it’s amazing how cheaply some people, especially scientists, will sell out.

Indeed, putting politics and press conferences ahead of pharmacology has been the medical establishment’s raison d’être as it offloads the costs of its expensive labs and bureaucracy. Dr. Francis Collins’s NIH, for example, charges the government thousands of dollars for genetic sequencing that costs the private sector just hundreds.

Hard Lessons in Self-Reliance

The success of generic drugs over Gilead’s Remdesivir reveals that Big Pharma—and its handmaiden, the NIH—won’t save us but will happily soak us with ever higher drug prices.

To anyone paying attention it ought to indict both the wastefulness of the National Institutes of Health ($40 billion annual budget) and the pharmaceutical industry (trillions in market capitalization) that wonder drug chloroquine (the typical dose costs $20 in the United States, pennies elsewhere) was developed in Germany in 1934—fully 10 years before the NIH itself was authorized by Congress and an American patient experienced its full effects.

The history of chloroquine and its derivative hydroxychloroquine deserves careful attention and was the subject of a rather amazing address by G. Robert Coatney in the 1960s. Dubbed “Mr. Malaria,” Coatney had explored 16,000 solutions to the malaria problem. During World War II, the War Production Board issued Conservation Order M-131 and heavily restricted the use of quinine. A synthetic had to be found.

“The effort involved scientists from the universities and industry, private individuals, the U.S. Army, the Navy and the Public Health Service, plus appropriate liaison with Great Britain and Australia,” and it also totally and completely failed.

The European powers understood that access to cures or treatments had national security implications. The power to blockade or restrict life saving drugs is the power to enfeeble and kill as both the Communist Chinese and the Food and Drug Administration remind us today. Holland blocked German access to its valuable Indonesian quinine farms so Nazi Germany—lacking any overseas colonies—was forced to innovate.

Autarky meant relying on the German people and their genius. Unlike today’s America, Germany put their best—and crucially, youngest—minds to work. Hans Andersag discovered chloroquine in 1934 at the tender age of 32—an amazing discovery but utterly consistent with all the available research that discoveries are made by the young.

In a gerontocracy like America, the NIH continues to dole out money to aging scientists without anything to show for it—even as its own research shows the persistent Boomer bias against younger scientists receiving funding.

To be sure, Bayer was very much a part of the Nazi regime, which barred Bayer’s scientists from receiving the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physiology after they discovered Prontosil, the first commercially available antibiotic. Germany’s innovations had to stay in Germany. Boomers love throwing around comparisons to the Great Depression and World War II, perhaps to suggest that they, too, would be capable of suffering what their parents endured. How ironic, then, that a company with Nazi ties ultimately made the drug keeping all the Boomers alive and the world economy running. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Wernher von Braun gave us NASA and even Disneyland, after V-2 rockets rained down on London.

Of course, Bayer has rightly apologized for its human experimentation during World War II but we ought to be asking why our own medical system is so sclerotic and well, geriatric, that we rely on foreign science, foreign scientists, and foreign sources of funding. (Fauci is 79 while Collins is 69.)

And is it not human experimentation to force people into clinical trials for drugs that do not work?

Why does it take five, 10, or 15 days for coronavirus tests to be done? Why are people dying waiting for tests?

Why do we need a world war—or a metaphoric reference to it—to make our institutions work? How do you expect to cure a novel virus with old thinking and old institutions?

Beware Chinese Gifts

Technology means doing more with less and yet our government seems to do less with more. Technology means making space for the new and young as the tired and old retreat gracefully from the public stage in a peaceful handoff of power.

Technology has been sorely lacking from America’s response to coronavirus. Our so-called leaders have taken a more low tech approach, preferring to turn all Americans into Uighurs under involuntary house arrest indefinitely.

Zoom, allied with the Chinese facial recognition companies SenseTime and Megvii barred from the United States for their mistreatment of the Uighurs, laughably convince America and her institutions to trust them while they train their datasets on us.

Silicon Valley lamented that it took Zoom CEO Eric Yuan nine attempts to get his visa. What if the U.S. deep state was right about him? How should we think of the British government using Zoom to communicate? The company reported to the SEC that its large data center—an R&D center really—has 500 engineers and personnel in China. This is unheard of. A Silicon Valley CEO friend told me he looked to hire a project manager from Zoom and found he had 100 direct reports as compared to the typical 12. The disturbing behavior and lax user security ought to have us very concerned.

We ignore American ingenuity at our peril as we invite the world into our country, our cell phones, and our screens. Why did an American manufacturer of powerful spy cameras find he could only do business in China after receiving a DARPA grant? Follow the logic through. The U.S. taxpayer subsidized the creation of the Chinese surveillance state. Why do we allow drone manufacturer DJI to sell to every American municipality while Impossible Aerospace has built a better drone?

TikTok has even enlisted the “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger to make cringeworthy viral videos telling us to stay at home. Perhaps it would sound less alarming if not for that Austrian accent. That’s easy to do if you are a Boomer and have a home, but so few Millennials have been afforded the income or opportunity to make their house a home. Does Arnold’s Mexican maid stay at home with him or in the home he bought for her? No Muscle Beach for you, citizen!

If technology is meant to do more with less, would it be too much to ask that American-born companies restore America’s freedoms? Where are the America First companies here to protect our liberties while they protect our cell phones? Why is it OK to use American ingenuity to target us with ads but not to help us avoid infection?

U.S. allies—Taiwan, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, and even Czechia—happily use state power to direct its technological advantages without shuttering everyday life. Taiwan built an “electronic fence” to quarantine its people while sounding the alarm about China’s state sanctioned lies about the virus. Israel moved to tap secret troves of gathered cell phone data. Singapore introduced an app—TraceTogether—to help identify if someone crossed paths with the infected. South Korea revealed where the infected lived, when they left for work, what trains they took, and where they tested, according to the New York Times. Low technology solutions work as well. Czechia went from zero mask usage to 100 percent in 10 days and ended the growth of new coronavirus cases.

Our allies understand that privacy is a luxury good that we can ill afford in a pandemic. How long should we stay confined to our homes? At present no one has an answer except possibly for forever.

And yet our health officials force us to queue up where we can be infected en masse. That is, if we are lucky enough to even get a test. Once we take a test we must wait days for the state labs to get around to telling us the results. Some receive their results after dying waiting.

For now, however, the FDA won’t let us test at home. Apparently, the agency was too busy telling us not to worry about the addictive nature of opioids. A drug is a substance that causes a change in physiology or psychology. Food is, well, food. Under what authority do diagnostics fall under the Food and Drug Administration’s purview? The FDA doesn’t want to explore new technology. Peter Thiel rightly notes that the areas of least regulation in our economy have seen the most promise.

There is no way out from politics. The administrative state has not delivered the benefits it promised. In the state of emergency it is ultimately the sovereign who decides who to follow and who to ignore, who to copy and who to reject.

In the race to find a solution to this pandemic crisis, President Trump needs to reject both Washington incompetence and Chinese subversion.

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About Semmelweis

Semmelweis is the penname of a successful biotech and technology investor. He writes under a pseudonym to protect the innocent.

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