Given the stakes involved, it seems perverse not to root for Gilead’s success. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there should be no big-pharma haters in pandemics. Last year, Elizabeth Warren wrote that “giant drug companies only care about one thing: raking in profits on the backs of patients.” I wonder if the Massachusetts senator would have the nerve to say that to Dr. Brainard and every other private-sector scientist laboring to find cures under the intense strain of this global emergency.
It’s also worth asking what this story says about the notion that the pandemic somehow proves Bernie Sanders right. Medicare For All, achieved through wrenching changes at ruinous expense, might provide “coverage” for every American, including the millions of newly unemployed.
But that’s of little help without effective diagnostic tests, therapies and vaccines, which typically emerge from profit-seeking companies operating in fiercely competitive and well-regulated marketplaces. Whatever the fate of remdesivir or any other drug, one lesson from this pandemic is how dependent we are for our survival on an innovative and robust pharmaceutical industry. Maybe we should do more as a country to cultivate it than tear it down.