Approve Moderna Jab and Get Jobs at Moderna!

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Since Jimmy Buffett’s passing on September 1, I’ve often found myself singing his song “Banana Republics:”

Down to the Banana Republics
Down to the tropical sun
Go the expatriated Americans
Hopin’ to find some fun.

Until I was about thirty, I walked around with the smug assumption that the United States was free from the bribery and graft that I heard about while traveling in Mexico and various African countries. With the Financial Crisis of 2008, it became evident to me that bribery in the United States isn’t a matter of greasing the palms of state officials with cash, but by intimating that a lucrative job awaits them after they leave government service.

Peter Doshi—senior editor at the BMJ and associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy—just published a report titled The FDA and Moderna’s cosy relationship: how lax rules enable a revolving door culture in which he recounts how two senior FDA officials who played substantial roles in approving Moderna’s COVID-19 shot later got jobs working at Moderna.

The two officials noted in Doshi’s report—Dr. Doran Fink and Dr. Jaya Goswami—are merely the latest in the revolving door between the FDA and the Big Pharma companies its officials are supposed to regulate. As we note in our book, The Courage to Face COVID-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex:

Pharmaceutical companies have also become extremely adept at “cap-turing” the men and women who are tasked with regulating them. Just as FDA supervisor Dr. Curtis Wright got a job at Purdue after he approved OxyContin, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb was appointed to Pfizer’s Board of Directors shortly after he left the agency. Likewise, six months after he gave approval to Moderna’s new COVID-19 vaccine, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn was offered a position at the venture capital firm that was one of Moderna’s primary backers. Among major media players, Jim Smith, the CEO of Reuters, was appointed to Pfizer’s Board of Directors in 2014 and is also on the international business council of the World Economic Forum.

Moncef Slaoui was the head of vaccine development at GlaxoSmithKline until 2017. At the time President Trump appointed him to lead Operation Warp Speed, he was a board member of both CEPI and Moderna, a primary candidate for Warp Speed funds. Though he resigned from the Moderna board to avoid a conflict of interest, he retained his stock options, which gained $2.4 million in value on the day the company announced favorable preliminary results of its Phase I trials. This raised concerns about his neutrality in judging the vaccine’s safety and efficacy data, so he agreed to divest his shares of Moderna stock.

“Down to the Banana Republics….”

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