Monday, December 12, 2022

Pharmaceutical Trials: When Left’s Obsession With Race Kills

One of the last things Francis Collins, then-director of the National Institutes of Health, did before retiring was to pressure Moderna into delaying the release of its COVID-19 vaccine because he wanted more minorities in its clinical trials.

Moderna’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, was happy to oblige him, saying that diversity “matters more to us than speed.”

That decision was not based on science, and it likely cost lives. A new study by law professor Michael Conklin, and a new book by another law professor, David Bernstein, explain why.

The race labels that we are all familiar with—black, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc.—are not scientific. Quite the contrary, Bernstein traces their origins to “a combination of amateur anthropology and sociology, interest-group lobbying, incompetence, inertia, lack of public oversight, and happenstance.” They have no basis in biology, tell us nothing about genetics, and are therefore useless to medical research.

For that reason, when the federal government standardized our race labels in 1977, it said that they “should not be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature.” Since then, scores of scholars and researchers have warned that our arbitrary labels should never be used in medical research.

But the bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health, and the leadership of at least one of our major pharmaceutical companies, ignored them.

Conklin explains that “there is no statute or regulation that explicitly mandates pharmaceutical trials reach any racial quota among their study participants,” but the FDA requires companies to gather such data and “recommends” that they submit it when seeking approval for new medicines.

The FDA claims that “[e]nsuring people from diverse backgrounds join clinical trials is key to advancing health equity.” But, as any doctor or medical researcher who isn’t blinded by ideology will tell you, it isn’t.

Ideology, however, trumps science for many on the left.

Take Harvard Medical School professor Farrah Mateen, for example. In a 2021 paper, she called for racial quotas in medical trials to advance “health equity” even while admitting that “[r]ace is a social construct, a poorly defined marker of genetic diversity, and an imprecise proxy for the relationship between genetics and ancestry.”

In truth, our arbitrary race labels are utterly useless to the science of medicine, which needs to understand how drugs will react to biological and genetic traits.

To give an example of how useless race labels are for medical research, consider the category “black.” According to U.S. law, “black” is anyone descended from one of the black tribes of Africa. The race-obsessed, like Collins, Bancel, or Mateen, might think that this category tracks at least somewhat reliably with biological and genetic traits. After all, they might say, all these people trace their origin to one continent and share a skin color.

But the truth is that there is more genetic diversity among Africans than between other geographically organized people groups. In fact, there is more diversity among Africans than there is between Africans and Eurasians.

Genetic diversity is a lot more than skin color. Not that the race-obsessed care.

If our medical experts, bureaucrats, and drug manufacturers were interested in science, they wouldn’t use our arbitrary race labels in medical research. And if they cared about saving lives, they wouldn’t have delayed the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine so that they could increase the color diversity of clinical trials.

But they weren’t interested in science, and they didn’t care about saving lives. At least, they didn’t care as much about those things as they cared about signaling their obedience to ideology.

People likely died because of Moderna’s decision to delay its vaccine. We’ll never know how many. But even if we did, it wouldn’t change these people’s behavior. Reality finds no purchase in the minds of the race-obsessed.


Elon Musk Annihilates Two Leftist Shibboleths With A Single Five Word Tweet, And They Are Big Mad

It's no secret that billionaire Elon Musk has done nearly everything possible to rile up the political left since his purchase of Twitter finalized a month and a half ago, from freeing formerly frozen conservative accounts to releasing the Twitter Files detailing how previous management put their thumb on the scales to censor the right. However, a simple five-word tweet on Sunday morning may have finally driven them all insane permanently.

"My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci," Musk wrote at 5:58 a.m. eastern time Sunday. So yeah, it was much earlier in Texas or California where Musk was likely located, because when has sleep - which the guy never does anyway - ever gotten in the way of an opportunity to massively troll the left?

If you're counting, that's two leftist shibboleths destroyed by Musk, a self-identified political centrist who believes in free speech. First, pronouns. Leftists love them some pronouns, especially ones that describe something different from someone's actual biological sex or are made up out of thin air. So, as actress Gina Carano found out the hard way, they get big mad when someone pokes fun at their new religion.

The other leftist shibboleth is, of course, America's Doctor Himself, Dr. Anthony Fauci, long may his name be blessed. While anyone with half a brain is at least questioning Fauci's approach to lockdowns, school closures, alternative Covid treatments, masks, and vaccine mandates as policies that resulted in massive suffering and death, leftists still revere the guy because he's one of them and they naturally agree with his totalitarian approach to tackling the pandemic.


China’s dangerous zero-Covid retreat

China’s scrapping of strict Covid controls represents not so much a shift in gear, as a screeching hand-break turn. It is abrupt and haphazard and comes at a particularly risky time. Hundreds of millions of people will soon be on the move for Chinese New Year, which is next month, and the spread of the virus, already fast, will accelerate rapidly. The transition to living with Covid has not been easy for any country but will be particularly difficult for China – and dangerous for the communist party.

After almost three years of instilling fear – with brutal lockdowns, mass testing, sweeping quarantine and claustrophobic surveillance – the virus is suddenly being portrayed as quite benign

Only last month Xi Jinping was being portrayed as the commander in chief of a ‘people’s war’ against the virus. There was to be no turning back until it was defeated. In his address to the communist party congress Xi did not even note the enormous economic costs, the social toll and the mental stress he was imposing on China – and those brave enough to point them out were quickly silenced.

Now the very term ‘zero Covid’, used as a demonstration of party virility and a measure of superiority over bungling western democracies, has been eradicated from party propaganda. After almost three years of instilling fear – three years of at times brutal lockdowns, mass testing, sweeping quarantine and claustrophobic surveillance – the virus is suddenly being portrayed as quite benign. ‘Everyone should treat it with a normal heart – there is no need to be nervous or even fearful,’ declared Wang Guiqiang, director of the infectious diseases department at Peking University First Hospital.

In a review this week of China’s three-year fight against Covid, Xinhua, the state news agency, not only avoided any mention of contentious lockdowns, such as the two-month long shutdown of Shanghai earlier this year, but also made no mention of zero Covid – as if the policy had never existed. It was a rewriting of history, remarkable even by communist party standards. Thanks to party leadership, China had ‘survived the most difficult moment’, it insisted. Hysteric alarmism was replaced by what seems a remarkable complacency, given the challenges China still faces.

When China’s National Health Commission said this week that it was dropping many of its quarantine and mass testing measures, and that it would reduce the use of lockdowns, it presented the change as a logical response to the changing nature of the threat. But the party does not do logical. Its principal concerns will have been the mounting damage to the economy and the wave of unrest that has swept China.

It has been reported that Xi was swayed by a letter sent by Terry Gou, the head of Foxconn, which assembles most of the world’s iPhones for Apple. Its vast factory complex in Zhengzhou was the scene last month of large-scale rioting. Gou warned Xi that strict Covid controls threatened China’s central position in global supply chains. That may well have had some influence, but more likely the trigger for easing restrictions was the often-violent protests against zero Covid that swept across China. They shook the party leadership because they were so geographically widespread and involved a broad range of social groups from migrant and factory workers to students and the urban elite. It was not so easy to blame the unrest on the usual foreign ‘dark hand’ or other ‘bad elements’ – it was an expression of popular anger and frustration, and it targeted Xi and the party.

The party does not do admissions of failure, although that is what its easing of controls amounts to. The country is ill-prepared for the sudden switch away from Xi’s zero-Covid dogmatism. A vast bureaucracy and industry has been built to impose Xi’s will and to fight his fight – as represented by the massed ranks of white hazmat-suited enforcers. But they have not put in place the basic tools needed to live with the virus. Only two thirds of those aged 80 and over, the most vulnerable to serious illness or death, have received the initial course of vaccination, usually two shots, and only two-fifths of this age group have had a booster. Chinese vaccines are less effective than their western counterparts, especially against the latest Omicron variants, and Xi has stubbornly refused to allow the import of foreign jabs. There is also little natural immunity, since most people have until now been shielded from the virus. According to government statistics, China has 3.6 intensive care beds per 100,000 people, compared to 29.4 in the United States and a little over seven in the UK.

The healthcare system could be quickly overwhelmed, and modelling of the likely impact does not make for comfortable reading for healthcare workers – or the party. Up to a million people are at risk of dying in a ‘winter wave’ of Covid, according to projections reported by the Financial Times. Figures from Wigram Capital Advisors, which provided modelling to governments during the pandemic, suggest the number of deaths could reach 20,000 a day by mid-March, with the demand for critical care beds peaking at ten times capacity.

Chinese New Year falls on 22 January – the year of the Rabbit. In any usual year the annual holiday sees the world’s largest migration of people, with perhaps 400 million on the move. This time could be even busier with considerable pent-up demand for travel and a hunger to see loved ones after years of restrictions. Not only does it stand to be a ‘super-spreader’ event, but inadequately prepared rural areas could be overwhelmed by the virus.

After their initial euphoria, financial markets have become much more cautious. The economy is unlikely to quickly bounce back. Few people are ruling out an abrupt reversal by the party, imposing travel restrictions or even more severe lockdowns if there is an explosion in the number of cases. But the rapid return of the zero-Covid straight-jacket could in turn trigger more unrest among a population emboldened by what is seen widely as the success of their protests in forcing rare concessions from the party.




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