In his second and final debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden, President Trump once again bemoaned the prospect of “socialized medicine,” a theme he’s sounded repeatedly in trying to scare voters into thinking a government takeover of the U.S. healthcare system is imminent if he isn’t reelected.
That’s not something Biden or any other prominent Democrat is calling for, so Trump’s warnings are just another example of his dishonesty and fearmongering.
And, it turns out, his hypocrisy.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced it will spend $375 million in taxpayer funds to purchase 300,000 doses of an experimental coronavirus antibody drug from pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co.
The deal also gives the government an option to spend more than $812 million for an additional 650,000 doses.
“This agreement with Eli Lilly is part of Operation Warp Speed’s efforts to position the federal government to distribute potential therapeutics, allowing faster distribution if trials are successful,” said Alex Azar, Trump’s secretary of health and human services.
“More good news about COVID-19 therapeutics is constantly emerging,” he declared, “and the Trump administration’s commitment to supporting potentially lifesaving therapeutics will help deliver these products to American patients without a day’s delay.”
Just a few things to consider here.
This pledge of $375 million in government funding comes days after Lilly said it was ending a study of the new drug after “trial data” revealed the drug, bamlanivimab, “is unlikely to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover from this advanced stage of their disease.”
You read that right. It may not work.
Other studies are pending. Lilly says the drug may be more effective the earlier the virus is treated, rather than by the time a patient is hospitalized.
In any case, Trump is already spending a ton of your money to buy it.
Moreover, Azar, the member of the Trump administration who engineered the $375-million purchase from Lilly, is — wait for it — a former top Lilly exec.
Pandemic, meet swamp.
But the broader issue of a government role in healthcare R&D is an important one. Clearly there’s a need for the government to be active in ensuring the well-being of society.
“The role of the government here is to fix a market failure,” said Scott Barkowski, a healthcare economist at Clemson University.
“Vaccines generally aren’t profitable,” he told me. “That’s part of why there are few companies that produce vaccines for the USA. The government can step in in that situation and help induce more production by helping support fundamental scientific research.”
That’s a valid function for our government or any government.
In fact, the U.S. National Institutes of Health has pumped roughly $900 billion into drug research since the 1930s, according to Gerald Posner, author of “Pharma: Greed, Lies and the Poisoning of America.”
The advocacy group Patients