The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a crisis of confidence in our so-called elites and technocrats, who are supposed to serve the public but instead appear to have been serving themselves. So what do we do to restore sanity and medical freedom and make sure a public health disaster never happens again? Some suggest “amnesty” for those who went to extremes during the pandemic. Absolutely not. What we need is to recognize what contributed to the insane pandemic response and implement solutions to make sure nothing like it ever happens again.
Now that the GOP has a majority in the House and some members want to hold Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), and others accountable, here are 12 steps Congress can take to curb future pharma corruption and malfeasance.
None of these should be considered partisan since both parties should share the objective of avoiding another pandemic disaster. However, the pharmaceutical and health industry makes substantial contributions to elected officials on both sides of the aisle, with more than $361 million spent on lobbying in 2021 and an all-time high of $92 million in political contributions in 2020 (62 percent to Democrats and 38 percent to Republicans), so implementing reforms will be a challenge no matter who controls the House or the Senate.
Early in 2022, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., published a 12-point plan to rescue America. Curiously, not a single point of his plan addressed the pandemic even though it was the worst health catastrophe in a century that also triggered authoritarian medical mandates and censorship never before seen in this country.
What is the common denominator between the pharmaceutical companies, the public health bureaucracy, medical associations, the corporate media, and Big Tech companies when it comes to censorship and medical misinformation? Money, of course.
According to Statista, the pharmaceutical and medical industry spent $5.6 billion on U.S. television advertising in 2021, second only behind the life and entertainment industry at $10.1 billion. For reference, total U.S. TV ad spending is expected to exceed $68 billion in 2022. According to eMarketer, pharmaceutical and health care companies combined spent an estimated $9.5 billion on digital media in 2020, with 56 percent going toward search advertising, dominated by Google and Facebook, which have aggressively censored medical information that deviated from the official public health narrative. This accounted for about 7.1 percent of all U.S. digital ad spending.
The pharma industry pays, in the form of user fees, for 75 percent of the FDA’s drug review budget, according to Forbes, and 45 percent of its overall budget. One investigation showed that 40 of 107 physician advisers on the FDA committees examined “received more than $10,000 in post hoc earnings or research support from the makers of drugs that the panels voted to approve, or from competing firms.”
According to an analysis by the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has numerous conflicts of interest, including openly accepting private gifts through the CDC Foundation, accepting supposedly “prohibited” donations, and “automatic” conflict of interest waivers for advisory committee members. In 2010, the CDC inspector general noted a “systemic lack of oversight” of its ethics program. The CDC uses taxpayer money to develop patents and then receives money from pharma companies in the form of licenses and royalties.
The NIAID, headed by Fauci, also accepts donations, such as a $100 million pledge by Bill Gates for work on gene therapies.
Individual public health officials and scientists, including Fauci and former NIH Director Francis Collins, receive royalties on patents used by the industry, teaching hospitals accept industry donations, and doctors accept “consulting fees,” and other travel and meals payments from pharma companies when they promote their products. Medical associations, such as the American Medical Association, accept pharma money while promoting drug-based medicine and discrediting alternative medicine and other competitors. Some professional societies that are involved with the development of clinical practice guidelines also have financial conflicts of interest.
Is it any wonder why the public health authorities, medical associations and hospitals, the news media, and Big Tech have attempted to censor any information that contradicted the pro-pharma narratives?
Congress could pass one comprehensive law to effectively undercut the corruption behind the censorious Big Tech companies, the corporate media, and the corrupt public health establishment. Such a law would consist of several simple common-sense reforms to combat financial incentives that promote corruption and tyrannical behavior.
- Re-impose the ban on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on advertising, which has made both Big Tech and corporate media companies vulnerable to influence, leading to censorship and search engine result manipulation.
- Prohibit pharmaceutical companies from contributing to the campaigns of any political candidate or any political action committee for a period of 25 years if they have been fined or agreed to settlements of more than $100 million for violations of the False Claims Act, Medicare fraud, kickbacks, failure to disclose safety data, making misleading statements about drug safety, poor manufacturing practices, or off-label promotion. Since most pharma companies have been fined from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, this would effectively prohibit them from making political contributions to suppress government oversight and regulation.
- Prohibit state medical boards and associations that accept state or federal funds from accepting funds from pharmaceutical companies. Those donations are a corrupting influence on the entire medical establishment, which has backed medical discrimination and tyrannical mandates. Instead, allocate public funds, paid for by higher taxes on pharma products, to support reputable medical boards and professional associations and enforce strict conflict-of-interest policies.
- Prohibit medical journals that accept state or federal funds from accepting funds from pharmaceutical companies. Such funding is a corrupting influence on the journals, some of which have censored truthful medical studies or published fraudulent studies designed to suppress alternative treatments or challenge pharmaceutical company safety and efficacy claims. Instead, allocate public funds, paid for by higher taxes on pharma products, to support reputable journals that publish federally funded medical research and enforce strict conflict of interest policies.
- Revoke laws granting pharmaceutical companies immunity from liability for vaccines or other products that cause death or harm. Pharmaceutical companies will no longer have an incentive to offer products that are improperly tested or do not meet reasonable safety standards and will need to pay more attention to safety. People who are harmed will be able to file lawsuits for financial restitution and bring public attention to the harm that is being done. Also prohibit the government National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program from requiring victims to agree to a non-disclosure (gag) agreement when they settle an injury claim, thus providing public transparency to vaccine injuries.
- Require pharmaceutical companies that supply products to deal with a declared public health emergency, or produce products developed with federal research and development funding, to sell at a limited profit margin of, for instance, 5 percent. Pharmaceutical companies should not be allowed to use public funds in a public health emergency to make billions of dollars in profits. This should mitigate any incentive to exaggerate the threat of future pandemics, engage in unsafe gain-of-function research, or push for medical mandates to force the use of pharmaceutical products.
- Pass a medical professional bill of rights that prohibits discrimination against medical professionals who do not agree with public health authorities on treatments. This includes threats of firing or decertification and attempts by public officials and medical associations to prevent doctors from lawfully treating patients using off-label medications or questioning the safety, efficacy, and need for pharmaceutical products. Impose civil or criminal penalties for public officials, private organizations, or medical professionals that engage in such discrimination.
- Pass a medical consumer bill of rights that prohibits medical coercion and discrimination, including medical mandates that abrogate the doctor-patient relationship without consent or a complete disclosure of risks. Impose civil or criminal penalties for public officials, private organizations, or medical professionals that engage in such discrimination.
- Limit corruption in the federal public health establishment by creating independent medical and scientific advisory commissions appointed by state legislatures that can override decisions made by the FDA, CDC, NIAID, and other federal public health bureaucracies. Doctors and scientists appointed to such commissions must be free of financial conflicts of interest with medical industries over which they provide oversight.
- Create an independent, publicly funded drug safety monitoring organization that accepts no funding or royalties from pharmaceutical companies and has no role in the promotion or approval of pharmaceutical products. Oversight of this organization will also be provided by scientific advisory commissions appointed by state legislatures, whose members must be free of financial conflicts of interest with the medical industries over which they provide oversight.
- Prohibit public health officials from holding investments in medical companies and receiving income from patents related to work conducted while in government service.
- Limit terms of office for senior officials in public health to four years and impose a lifetime ban on employment by or representation of a medical company that they previously regulated.
These comprehensive reforms would help to remove corrupting financial incentives and decentralize federal public health oversight. The current environment rewards corruption and tyrannical behavior, which must be fought by eliminating bad incentives and replacing them with higher standards of personal integrity and transparency. There should be no amnesty for bad decisions that resulted in violations of human rights — only accountability and solutions designed to prevent them from ever being made again. As we have long been told, “those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”
David Thalheimer is a graduate of George Washington University, Harvard University, the Air War College, and the National Intelligence University. He retired from the U.S. Air Force as a colonel and now works as an engineer in the field of cybersecurity.