A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showing 64 percent of Democrats preferring a new standard-bearer in 2024 rocked the White House and the political landscape, but it should not have come as a big surprise. After all, President Joe Biden continues to fall short of the promises that drew many Democrats, including myself, to his candidacy in 2020: his pledge for a new strategy combatting Covid-19.
Consider the Food and Drug Administration’s recent decision allowing pharmacists to play doctor and prescribe Pfizer’s anti-viral treatment Paxlovid, which Biden himself, having contracted Covid-19, is now taking. The agency claims this is meant to increase access to the medicine, which must be taken as soon as symptoms arise. But the drug’s fact sheet is a tangled web of restrictions that will make it impractical for most pharmacies to take the risk. Why is the FDA encouraging this?
The answer is plain to anyone who has been following the plight of independent doctors during the pandemic. Our public health agencies — heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry and beholden to Biden’s “vaccine first” approach — are committed to diminishing the medical profession and centralizing authority with bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. They have prosecuted a relentless campaign to reduce physicians to cogs in a health care system that is aggressively transforming all medical professionals from providers to prescribers.
The problems with Paxlovid are no secret. FDA granted Pfizer emergency use authorization for the drug after a single trial with questionable results. The medicine has many contraindications, meaning it can’t be taken by someone who simultaneously would be taking certain anti-depressants, anti-seizure, anti-psychotic, cholesterol, or blood pressure medications. Furthermore, many Americans cannot take Paxlovid, given that nearly half of adults have cardiovascular disease.
The risks are plain to see in FDA’s guidance, which recommends referring the patient to a doctor if “sufficient information is not available to assess renal and hepatic function” or “potential drug interactions.” Numerous contraindications are listed, and caution is advised throughout. The burden is on the patient to furnish medical records to prove that he or she doesn’t have any significant kidney or liver disease, drug sensitivities, or other medications that could cause serious adverse events.
Nevertheless, pharmacies have spent months and millions of dollars lobbying for the right to play doctor and prescribe Paxlovid. The economic motives of such a move are clearly in their favor, as, unlike doctors, they profit directly from dispensing drugs. It’s no surprise the National Community Pharmacists Association celebrated the win as a “course correction.” Its CEO said, “Pharmacists are the drug therapy and drug interaction experts. This move opening up their ability to assess the need for and prescribe Paxlovid will improve patients’ timely access to treatments that will help keep them out of the hospital and alive.”
This may be as absurd a statement by a health organization as I have heard in the pandemic. No pharmacist could ever safely dispense a novel medicine with an unprecedented amount of drug interactions without in-depth knowledge of the severity of the patient’s medical problems or the critical necessity of each of their other medicines. This fact was not lost on the American Medical Association, which temporarily snapped out of its woke-activist-induced coma to offer qualified criticism.
“While the majority of COVID-19 positive patients will benefit from Paxlovid, it is not for everyone, and prescribing it requires knowledge of a patient’s medical history, as well as clinical monitoring for side effects and follow-up care to determine whether a patient is improving—requirements far beyond a pharmacist’s scope and training,” American Medical Association President Jack Resneck Jr. said in a statement.
The tell is right there, though. The AMA is fine with Paxlovid as long as physicians are doing the prescribing. Ceding authority is the problem, which is why the agency previously called the idea “dangerous in practice and precedent” when the Biden administration first proposed it in the Test to Treat initiative.
Covid cases and deaths are down massively from their last peak in January. Most states have lifted restrictions and returned to normal. Yet just days after the FDA made this announcement, the Biden administration again extended the Covid public health emergency — because the president can’t lose the specter of Covid as a political tool.
Vaccination rates have leveled off, and Paxlovid sales bottomed out in April due to a combination of supply problems and sinking demand. Pfizer pushed expectations for the drug sky high, and now it needs to deliver on that promise. The FDA’s move shows how deftly the company has used the pandemic to influence government and public health agencies to serve its shareholders.
The pharmaceutical industry, led by Pfizer and in league with the Biden administration, is waging war against independent doctors who refuse to cede control over patient well-being — and they are winning. If there is any hope for change, it will come in November.
The red wave forming off our political shores is a culmination of many factors. Inflation and gas prices are hitting all-time highs, and just 13 percent of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction. But relying on scare tactics to distract voters back to Biden is a strategy not supported by medical conditions on the ground.
Let’s hope whoever rides into Washington on that red wave will take on this fight with integrity.