Recent stories about government scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) claiming patent rights for COVID-19 drugs highlight a dangerous “iron triangle” between Big Pharma, Big Health Care and government research and policy agencies. Iron triangles arise from the strengthening of financial and political ties between government offices, private institutions, and government aid recipients. Once established, they can create a huge leverage on public policy, self-finance their political power (lobbying, campaign contributions), and generate tremendous growth and cash flow, and it is almost impossible to shut it down. They are found throughout the public sector, from national defense to public welfare and health care.
The payment of royalties to NIH scientists involved in the development of medicines (and their patents) sold by private companies gives potential conflicts of interest, especially when the leaders of these agencies promote public policies on the use of these medicines. I certainly think of COVID as making $ 50 billion in federal funding available for research and development, and for the manufacture and distribution of vaccines, bringing pharmaceutical companies $ 100,000 billion in revenue and $ 40 billion in profits. The mRNA technologies and patents used in the development of COVID vaccines have led to a stream of fee payments to government scientists for these drugs and other advances.
There have been fierce legal battles over patents and rights allocation between private companies and NIH scientists. This is not new; It happened with the drug AZT of HIV and other great and profitable advances. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and former NIH director Francis Collins, were the recipients of these rights, a 2005 Associated Press study found. Doctors said the payments were made for charity, but no one seems to know how much was paid, to whom and where the money went.
Big Health Care – hospitals, doctors, health care systems – make huge profits from the administration of vaccines and other medicines, and depends on Fauci’s nearly $ 5 billion annual budget for the distribution of outside research money; nor about Fauci / NIH pressure to use vaccines. Most host universities and other private medical research centers, of course, celebrate Fauci’s leadership. Any question about the decisions of the NIH or Fauci is called “misinformation” and, as we saw with COVID, “not following science”. But “following the money” continues to raise some important questions.
The NIH’s secret is reflected in the next leg of the triangle, Big Pharma, which has grown tremendously and can account for 15 percent of all health care spending. It is projected that the fastest growing segment of healthcare costs will be growing in the future. Research over the past 20 years has suggested that Big Pharma contributed about 9 percent of the operating budget of major medical schools like Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, accounting for nearly 30% of continuing medical education costs for physicians, and making large payments. deans of leading medical schools. Medical associations and schools say this has been reduced, but, as is the case with the NIH, little data is available to investigate this. The iron triangle appears to be wearing a layer of invisibility.
Unfortunately, all of this may partly explain why medical education has been increasingly reduced to vertical specialty silos following algorithms that teach students to “name”, “drug or cut (and then drug)” and “bill”. Four-year-old medical students have to memorize a wide range of drug and drug applications, literally duplicating their vocabulary. And of course, Medicare and Medicaid Service Centers (CMS) and insurance companies pay for these diagnostic / treatment / billing frameworks with modern, robotic, and drug-based medical treatment support.
Is it any wonder that politicians, NIH scientists, and university research and medical education institutions want to be closely associated with this money machine? And, of course, Republicans and Democrats too.
So the question is, does this give Americans a longer and healthier life? Apparently not.
During the COVID pandemic, it was shown that many Americans with poor metabolic health and overweight were at high risk for serious illness and death. Similarly, Americans with poor metabolic health and high levels of inflammation are at the highest risk of having nine of the 10 major killer diseases. Life expectancy in the U.S. has been declining for years before COVID, despite rising health spending. Excessive sugar intake is the main culprit. However, an incomprehensible NIH was made with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2021 to approve high-sugar standards for American and government-funded foods. If you think sugar is a dangerous and addictive drug, it could be said that the NIH / USDA supports Big Pharma and “Big Pharma.” You could also say that NIH is becoming a bad name. They are the National Institute of Drugs and Treatments, that’s where the money is.
One possible example is the growing number of Americans who are becoming addicted to antidepressants; this can have many side effects and does not seem to “cure” anything, for example, suicides have risen dramatically, by more than 30 percent in half of the states. last 20 years. Another example: A study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology in 2017 saw an 80 percent increase in statin use in a decade (221 million prescriptions per year) and yet preventable heart disease is the number one killer among men and women, taking almost twice as many lives. as in COVID. The country’s leading heart surgeons mention that these deaths can be prevented with optimal diet and lifestyle, but where is the NIH’s pressure on this?
The bottom line is that health care costs are rising, but Americans are not getting healthier. Americans are getting sicker and sicker, taking more drugs and living shorter lives. We Americans love superheroes who save the day and avoid death and disaster. Now is the time to break into a new superhero series and break the Iron Triangle of Health.
It means Grady is a writer and former corporate strategy consultant. He served as a political aide to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and a staff economist at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the White House. He was a liaison for the White House National Health Insurance Experiment, chaired the Food Stamp Reform Group, and helped draft and implement the 1973 HMO Act. Continue here: gradymeans.com and Twitter @ gradymeans1.