The antiviral drug remdesivir has been used heavily by doctors combatting the novel coronavirus, and is a major part of a WHO study that is unprecedented in its scope and speed. Yet on Monday, the Trump administration’s FDA granted its maker, Gilead, new authority to control access to the drug by deeming it an “orphan” and coronavirus a “rare disease” it treats. The result would be a significant price increase and a dramatic drop in its availability. The move was one more instance of the United States not just acting as the weak link in the global response to the pandemic, but actively undermining efforts to mitigate it.
Sharon Lerner and Lee Fang were the first to report details on this extraordinary scandal, and their story, to use an unfortunate metaphor, went viral. Under intense international pressure, Gilead turned down the FDA’s lucrative gift, an unusual act in the annals of Big Pharma history. If this development wound up being The Intercept’s only contribution to the pandemic response, I’d go away proud. Of course, there’s much more we’ve been doing, and sadly much more left to do.
Lee, meanwhile, has had a number of other stories exposing the dark side of business lobbying in the midst of the crisis, including on efforts by the debt collection industry to remain an essential part of the response to the pandemic.
Jon Walker has a fascinating piece of policy journalism, arguing that the best way to rapidly expand health insurance coverage to people in need immediately is to open up Tricare Select to them. If we’re on a war footing, it makes sense to deploy the PPO reserved for veterans and their families. If you’re on Tricare, let me know how your experience with it has been.
Earlier this week, I broke a non-coronavirus story: A woman named Tara Reade, a former staffer to Sen. Joe Biden, came to the #MeToo organization Time’s Up, looking for help in talking publicly about her experience there. The group ended up turning down funding, they confirmed to me, because Biden is a presidential candidate, and doing so would put their tax-exempt nonprofit status at risk. That story is here. She has since spoken to a number of outlets about what she describes as a sexual assault by Biden, which Biden has firmly denied. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this.
I’ve been trying to game out a scenario in which President Trump could have possibly handled the pandemic worse than he has, and getting to that place requires some extraordinary leaps in imagination. We now have more cases of coronavirus than any other country in the world, still don’t have widespread testing, have shortages of supplies and equipment at hospitals across the country, and a large segment of the population following the president’s lead in dismissing the seriousness of the pandemic. Trump is now telling governors that they won’t get federal help unless they show him due appreciation, one of the most staggering acts of presidential negligence and malice in modern history.
I hope you are weathering this as well as possible, and I urge you to stay home and away from public places as much as possible. This too shall pass, though it will take its toll before it does. Be safe and be well.