We’re in a crisis that only doctors, scientists and Big Pharma can end

globe with a mask and text coronavirus

I spend a lot of time writing to, for and about people who are profoundly cynical regarding medicine, science and pharmaceutical companies. Some are sure that doctors are useless, if not harmful. They feel free to ignore expert scientific advice (e.g. climate change) and they are absolutely certain that Big Pharma provides nothing that has value beyond making a profit.

Now all of us, including the cynical, are in the midst of a global crisis that will ONLY be treated and solved by healthcare, medications/medical devices and ultimately vaccines.

What do you think of doctors, scientists and Big Pharma now?

I’d like to ask the cynical: what do you think of doctors, scientists and Big Pharma now?

What do you think of doctors now?

Still think they care only about themselves? Then why are they working flat out in hospitals, exposing themselves to a virus that could be just as deadly for them as it is for you?

Still think they’re arrogant? Then why are they the first to admit that they don’t know much about the novel coronavirus? Why are they telling anyone who will listen that they have no specific medications to treat it, not enough ventilators to care for the most severely affected patients and no vaccines to prevent it?

Still think they only provide services for profit? Then why are they caring for anyone who is ill, regardless of ability to pay?

What do you think of scientists now?

Still think it’s okay to ignore their warnings? Then why did the countries who responded immediately and aggressively manage to “flatten the curve” so their healthcare systems aren’t overwhelmed? Why is it that China, a country that ruthlessly instituted every public health recommendation, has managed to contain the epidemic when others cannot?

Still think their work is esoteric and impractical? Then how did they manage to sequence the COVID 19 genome in only a few weeks, the first step to understanding how to get this pandemic under control?

Still think we don’t need basic science research? Would it change your mind to know that scientists had been developing a vaccine for coronaviruses in preparation for future epidemics but had their Federal funding cut and had to give up? Imagine how many things would be different now if a vaccine existed or were far along in clinical trials. We would not be facing a mounting death toll, our economy would not be grinding to a halt, we would not be stuck in our homes because our only tool of prevention is social distancing.

What do you think of Big Pharma now?

Still think their products exist only for profit? If you get very sick are you planning to refuse the antiviral medications that might help you recover faster? If you have severe difficulty breathing will you refuse the ventilator that would keep you alive?

Still think vaccines are ineffective? Then why doesn’t Big Pharma simply announce they have a coronavirus vaccine? Who would be able to tell the difference if vaccines don’t work anyway?

Still think Big Pharma shouldn’t have special legal protections to induce them to produce a vaccine that — because it will never be perfect — will end up spawning lawsuits that make the production unprofitable? An effective vaccine against COVID 19 could end the pandemic in days, not the weeks or months we are looking at now.

How fast do you want it developed? Do you want Big Pharma to spend years testing it and refusing to release it until they satisfy themselves that it won’t cause them to lose money from lawsuits? Or do you want them to bring it to market as soon as reasonably possible with the understanding that a small number of people may be harmed?

Still deeply cynical about doctors, scientists and Big Pharma? Who do you think will save you if not them?

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    A caveat: We don’t only need doctors, scientists, and big pharma to end this pandemic. We need everyone to show some sense and STAY HOME! We need the government to make sure it is possible for everyone not involved in essential business to stay home: universal basic income and put the homeless somewhere safe. We need leadership from our leaders. If only we could get it.

  • Inmara

    Antivaxxers are all over the social media, spreading conspiracy theories (virus is made by Big Pharma to make us all buy vaccines, virus is a hoax to bring the economy down etc etc), so no, they don’t learn and never will. If there will be a vaccine for this novel virus, I bet that antivaxxers will ride on herd immunity and continue to spread their lies.

    • rational thinker

      They will depend on heard immunity and continue to preach bullshit. They are fucking leeches.

  • rational thinker

    If you have ever had the chicken pox you have to worry about getting shingles later. What worries me the most is a chicken pox = shingles later in life situation. If you catch this virus now and eventually recover does it open up a similar situation later? Most likely it is gonna be a while before we find that out.

    • Also, is any immunity long-term or short-term? We don’t get any permanent immunity to the common cold. Are we going to see wave after wave of covid-19 infections as it lurks in the population, to spring out on a seasonal basis from its now-endemic state in the population?

      • Sue

        That has not happened with SARS or MERS coronaviruses.

        • That is true, but those are also not very transmissible between people. So I’m not sure our lucky experiences with SARS and MERS will play out with COVID-19.

      • Heidi

        But I’m assuming we develop immunity to whatever strain of the virus we got of the cold.

        • We really don’t, not for long anyways. A few months at most. Though that might be because each strain is very short-lived because they mutate so fast.

      • Griffin

        There are actually 7 corona viruses that infect humans, and four of those circulate in the human population causing the common cold all over the world. The other 3 are of course SARS, MERS, and Covid19. It seems that Covid19 is closely related to SARS-CoV and so may have derived from it or a common ancestor in wild animals – in fact, Covid19 is also called SAR-CoV2.

        The reason we don’t develop immunity to common cold viruses is high antigenic variation in the viruses: the proteins that cause a protective immune response in the human host are constantly changing – because our immune systems are killing the viruses we can recognize, so the ones we can’t recognize go on to propagate themselves and infect new hosts. The CoV proteins that elicit a protective effect differ by about 13% between SARS and Covid19 – that’s enough of a difference for Covid19 to largely escape the immune responses elicited by SARS.

        It’s also possible that the existing human immune responses to SARS-CoV in the human population were sufficiently strong to select a less pathogenic but more infectious variant of CoV (ie Covid19). It’s a war between host and virus and the very fast turnover of viruses mean they often win in the short-term…

        So going to your question, “Are we going to see wave after wave of covid-19 infections as it lurks in the population, to spring out on a seasonal basis from its now-endemic state in the population?” – it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. But the virulence of Covid19 is likely to be less in this scenario.

    • Sue

      Varicella-Zoster virus (which causes chicken pox and shingles) is from the family of Herpes Viruses – like cold sores (herpes simplex). This group of viruses remains latent after the first infection and can re-emergence from the sensory nerve ganglia.

      COVID19 is a coronavirus (hence the name – which refers to the crown-like spikes on the surface of the outer coat). The Coronavirus group are respiratory viruses that are transmitted between animals and people (SARS from civets and MERS from camels). Other coronaviruses cause common-cold-like symptoms. They don’t remain dormant in nerve roots.

      People will develop at least short-term immunity – that’s how the SARS and MERS outbreaks ended.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “People will develop at least short-term immunity- that’s how the SARS and MERS outbreaks ended”

        I’m confused by what you mean by this. Are you saying the outbreaks ended because the population developed enough immune individuals that the virus could not longer spread (i.e. herd immunity)? Because there were fewer than 3,000 cases of MERS total and fewer than 10,000 of SARS. I had heard that both the SARS and MERS outbreaks ended due to careful quarantines plus maybe seasonal factors?

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        Well, maybe. There are reports of apparently persistent viral infection versus re-infection: people getting sick, apparently recovering, then getting sick and testing antigen positive again. And reports of the virus being able to infect neurons.

    • KQ Not Signed In

      THANK YOU. This is one of my biggest fears abut this pandemic!

  • “why are they working flat out in hospitals, exposing themselves to a virus that could be just as deadly for them as it is for you?”

    Deadlier, actually, given that they’re exposed to so much of it and are in many cases running on little sleep. And they know it, too.

    • Mel

      Right?

      I work with a bunch of mildly disgruntled workers at a home-improvement big box store. We don’t mind being open – but we’re getting more than a bit irritated by people who are buying non-essential materials because they’ve decided social distancing is a great time to repaint their living room. (Seriously. I’ve been told that by around 3 people per 4 hours – and often followed by “I mean, I can work at home, blah blah blah, be safe!” My response of “I can’t nor can I apply for unemployment while you shop”) goes over their heads.

      Our one comforting factor is that we are pretty good at keeping a 3-6 foot distance from customers and are likely not being exposed to the absolute sickest individuals.

      A few of us attempted to explain why health care professionals are at so much higher risk because of being exposed to more sick people and sicker sick people – and that did lead to some “oh!” moments.

      • mabelcruet

        I’ve just had to explain to a supposedly intelligent friend that it is not unreasonable for the nursing home where his elderly and very infirm parent is living to ban visitors from the home. The rule is now that if family want to take their relative out for the day, they cannot be brought back into the Home for 3 weeks, no more day trips, lunch out etc. This is a home full of very elderly people with lots of pre-existing illnesses, but trying to protect their residents is ‘like living in North Korea’.

        Yesterday I did my good deed for the day-I was in a chemist’s, and the assistant looked awful, really upset like she was about to cry. I asked if she was ok, and she said she had just had a woman call her awful names because they had no hand sanitizer left. The customer saw the bottle behind the counter (that the assistants were using) and demanded it was given to her, then called the poor girl a selfish bitch for refusing and stormed out. I found another assistant to look after her-she was really shaken up. Honestly, so much for Blitz spirit and a crisis making us all pull together-people are turning into huge arseholes.

        • Griffin

          Yeah, and how about those actively making money from the disaster? Apart from the lactavists in Dr. Tuteur’s posts, there’s a couple of people who bought up all the hand sanitizer on Amazon and were re-selling it at high prices. Amazon noticed it and called quits. Now that the state is looking into it, those two creeps have ‘donated’ their supply. Reminds of the heinous Shrekeli creep, who hiked the price of Daraprim 60-fold just because he could. They should go to prison, like he did.

          • rational thinker

            A crisis situation always brings out the selfish assholes.

          • AnnaPDE

            And THIS is exactly why all those quaint “oh this lockdown will be such a good reset for society and we’ll all emerge as enlightened unselfish slowed-down altruists who have learned what really matters in life, and then use this knowledge to stop climate change” fantasies popping up on my Facebook feed drive me up the wall.
            The one real lesson will be that the modern standards of cooperative, civilised behaviour are predicated on people feeling safe and secure enough to be able (or even want to) control their primal selfish urges.

          • KQ Not Signed In

            It certainly allows people to show who they truly are.

        • rational thinker

          The customer was the one being selfish. That girl has to deal with a lot of people so she obviously needs to use the sanitizer after each customer as a precaution

          for herself and the other customers, co-workers,ect. I guess the asshole thought she was more important than all the other people who went in there that day.

          I went to my local dollar store today and they had a one sanitizer per customer limit in effect. I am glad they did that because there are a lot of selfish people who will buy the whole shelf. Then others wont get any and they wont even give those people a second thought. It’s sick.

        • StephanieJR

          I’m getting worried about protecting my gran; she’s in her eighties, she has a lot of health problems, including diabetes and BCC, and she lives alone. She has myself, my mum and uncle, a couple of carers, a friend that comes around once a week, and people from her church. We all visit regularly, and she needs us to go shopping and run errands, but she’s so vulnerable, both to this illness and to loneliness. We need to protect her.

          I usually visit once a week and clean her house while I’m there; usually on a Monday, but I didn’t this week, and now I don’t know if I should go tomorrow. We went shopping yesterday, and no one was following the guidelines; no personal space, people gathering in close clumps to talk, coughing without covering. We live so far away from most of the rest of the UK, but it’s honestly only a matter of time before it gets here, and I don’t know if that’s already run out. Visiting her tomorrow might be the last time I see her for months – or ever, if I’m already exposed and pass it on. It’s a really scary thought.

          I also need to stock up on food for the rabbit; she gets through a bag of hay weekly, and I’m worried about what happens if she takes ill during this.

          • mabelcruet

            I caught part of a radio phone in programme (Jeremy Vine talking to Sarah somebody, radio doctor). They were talking about visiting self isolating elderly people, and suggested physical distance as the main thing-non family like delivery men, post men, shop deliveries etc, have a notice on the door saying to leave it on the step. If the person needs to come in-like a plumber, electrician doing work-the vulnerable person should stay in a room with the door closed and someone else should show the person what they need. For family members visiting, lots of hand washing, wear gloves, no hugging or kissing, 3m social distance, keep visits short and wear masks before you go into the house (or she should put one on before you arrive). And keep to one part of the house, stay in the kitchen where its easily cleaned, wipe down all surfaces with sanitizer when you leave.

          • StephanieJR

            That’s actually very helpful, thank you. I don’t think we can prepare that today, but we might be able to get ready in case we absolutely need to visit. I’m going to miss seeing her, but we can still talk on the phone.

          • mabelcruet

            The doctor was giving instructions about how to remove gloves and masks properly-you must take the gloves off by peeling down from the wrist, touching only the inside of the glove and turn them inside out as you do so, and then double bag them and put them in the outside bin rather than the kitchen bin. And similar for masks-remove by only touching the ear elastic or straps, and don’t touch the mask itself. She said for very elderly people, it might be easier for others to wear masks and gloves than the older person, as contamination was a risk if you couldn’t manage the delicate removal process. She did say though that the biggest thing was lots of long and careful handwashing, and on the whole the use of masks was equivocal, especially the simple surgeons type paper masks.

          • StephanieJR

            We have gloves in the house, though the only masks we have are gas masks my brother collected (he is, or at least was, into airsoft/pellet guns and roleplay/WW2 stuff), so I don’t think that will work! I don’t want to take valuable masks away from health professionals, but I hope having one or two in isn’t a big impact.

            Gran is, thankfully, going to self isolate for her own protection, but she needs my mum to cut her toenails sometime in the next week. I’m not sure what her carers are doing; they will probably need to reduce the amount of time with her, and with any other elderly people they look after.

          • mabelcruet

            I was trying to sort out supplies for relatives-we have 3 very elderly and infirm aunts, all of whom are isolating. The biggest issue for them is milk-we couldn’t find any long life milk anywhere, the shops are stripped bare in their town. But we got them tins of evaporated milk, and they are all reminiscing about their childhoods in the 1930s when evaporated milk poured over jelly was a special treat for dessert. They absolutely love the stuff! Plus its good for their appetites, they are all tiny and frail and barely eat, but making porridge with evaporated milk is pouring the calories into them and they are all feeling slightly naughty about “indulging”-daft biddies! Silver linings and all that

          • StephanieJR

            What a cute story!

          • mabelcruet

            They’re lovely-they are my great-aunts really, 3 sisters, all widows now. They used to tell us stories about their childhoods-they were teenagers during the second world war, and had a single bottle of perfume between them-Coty L’Aimant-and they managed to eke it out through the war years. No one was allowed to apply it without the others watching to make sure they all used the same number of drops.

            Even now, if you buy them anything they consider extravagant (which is anything remotely non-essential like sweets, chocolate, biscuits, toiletries) they put it aside very carefully and ration it. Aunt Aggie adores marzipan-there’s a marzipan producer called Neideregger that makes gorgeous different flavours of marzipan, so I always get her a box for christmas. The pieces are quite large, so she eats half a piece a day. I used to tell her I’ll get her another box so she can eat as much as she wants, but for her it’s a special Christmas treat and it wouldn’t be right to get a box any old time. We’ve got a secret system she hasn’t worked out yet-I get her the Christmas box, my sister gets her the Valentine’s box (because Uncle Bill used to get those for her before he died), my other sister gets her the Easter box, and mum gets her her birthday box, so that gets her through the year all marzipanned-up!

  • Daleth

    EXACTLY.