No Minister

The politicisation of bureaucracy

with 5 comments

The following story is from the USA and concerns a government agency very much in the news over the last couple of years – the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) – but you have to wonder to what degree the same thing is happening now in New Zealand.

The story actually arises as a bit of a sidebar from a Fox News interview of one Dr. Marty Makary, a professor of surgery and health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The purpose of the interview was to discuss the development of an anti-Covid-19 oral pill:

Merck & Co’s stock price rose sharply on Friday after the drug company announced positive clinical trial results from its experimental anti-viral Covid-19 pill. Data showed the pill halved the chances of dying or being hospitalized for at-risk populations—a breakthrough advancement in the fight against the global pandemic. 

It would be quite a fantastic scientific advance. Makary said that it is the…

“…most profound scientific achievement since the vaccines. A fifty percent reduction in the death rate, an oral pill with a simple 5-day course. It’s safe, it works against all variants, it can be used in combination with other therapies. The FDA needs to enact an expanded access protocol to liberate this medication. We’ve got 1.7 million on the shelf, we need to give it to people sick with Covid today under this protocol while they consider if for an emergency use authorization.”

You want any medicine to be thoroughly tested of course, but the FDA’s procedures have increasingly come under attack by taking excessive precautions and there has been a slow but steady decline in drug development in the last thirty years. Until Covid-19 of course, which saw quite a bit of “emergency use authorisation”.

But this was the part of the interview that got attention:

Kilmeade: “[Why is Merk not going] to bat for their own drug.”

Makary: “Well, they’ve got to be very careful with the FDA. If you do something out of line with what they want you could offend them and the FDA is vindictive and they will hold up authorizations and approvals.”

Kilmeade: “Are you kidding? The FDA is vindictive?”

Makary: “First of all this is the most political FDA in U.S. history. Second of all, the FDA has a long history of pulling products from companies that are unrelated to mistakes in other medication and device applications so companies have to be very careful, and that’s why you generally don’t see pharma complaining about the bureaucracy and red tape at the FDA …”

Kilmeade: “… They’re afraid,”

Makary: “Yeah, they’re afraid of the backlash”

In some ways it’s not surprising to hear this. All bureaucrats gain a giddy sense of power over time and I reckon we’ve all seen things like this in our lives. Certainly it’s understood that if you piss off a bureaucrat they can find myriad ways to lead you into all sorts of problems. It may be the reason behind the problems here that medical testing company Rako has encountered with the MOH over saliva testing.

It also reminds me of this comment way back in 2017 by Senator Chuck Schumer, responding to Trump’s criticisms of the US intelligence agencies:

The new leader of Democrats in the Senate says Donald Trump is being “really dumb” for picking a fight with intelligence officials, suggesting they have ways to strike back, after the president-elect speculated Tuesday that his “so-called” briefing about Russian cyberattacks had been delayed in order to build a case.

“Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,”

In the next four years they did, all the way from “leaks” about Russian paying the Taliban to kill US soldiers (a claim made as Trump mulled withdrawing from Afghanistan), to the now infamous Hunter Biden emails being dismissed by a group of recently retired intelligence officers as products of “Russian disinformation”.

Between them and the news above about the FDA, it really does make you wonder who is running our nations?

Written by Tom Hunter

November 16, 2021 at 7:50 am

5 Responses

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  1. You only have to look at the disgraceful, if not criminal behaviour at Kainga Ora to see this in NZ:

    John JohnO

    November 16, 2021 at 8:00 am

  2. “experimental anti-viral Covid-19 pill” Meanwhile, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are ignored, dismissed and demonized due to their lack of profitability for the leeches of the pharmaceutical industry.


    November 16, 2021 at 8:18 am

  3. The private sector response to such broken institutions is first of all to fire senior people and replace them with ones who will improve the systems and processes, including booting out any lower level minions who even hint out at the sort of behaviour shown by the FDA.

    If that doesn’t work then the institution itself has to be knocked to pieces and a new one built in its place. It’s what I think needs to happen to the MOH.

    Even then the process probably has to be repeated every few decades as the arteries harden.

    What chance for any of this with these institutions since they can’t be privatised due to the nature of what they’re doing.

    Tom Hunter

    November 16, 2021 at 8:19 am

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