Public Health

WHO Reverses Course, Now Advises Against Use of ‘Punishing’ Lockdowns

Even as the WHO calls on nations to refrain from imposing lockdowns, many governments continue to use this strategy.

For months, an overwhelming majority of the planet’s population has been subject to cruel and unnerving lockdowns: businesses closed, travel restricted, and social gatherings kept to a minimum.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have sunk our economies, kept loved ones apart, derailed funerals, and made personal and economic liberty a casualty as much as our health. One report states it could cost us $82 trillion globally over the next five years – roughly the same as our yearly global GDP.

Many of these initial lockdowns were justified by policy recommendations by the World Health Organization.

The WHO’s director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, writing in a strategy update in April, called on nations to continue lockdowns until the disease was under control.

But now, more than six months since lockdowns became a favored political tool of global governments, the WHO is calling for their swift end.

Dr. David Nabarro, the WHO’s Special Envoy on COVID-19, told Spectator UK’s Andrew Neil last week that politicians have been wrong in using lockdowns as the “primary control method” to combat COVID-19.

“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” said Nabarro.

Dr. Michael Ryan, Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, offered a similar sentiment.

“What we want to try to avoid – and sometimes it’s unavoidable and we accept that – but what we want to try and avoid is these massive lockdowns that are so punishing to communities, to society and to everything else,” said Dr. Ryan, speaking at a briefing in Geneva. 

These are stunning statements from an organization that has been a key authority and moral voice responsible for handling the global response to the pandemic.

Cues from the WHO have underpinned each and every national and local lockdown, threatening to push 150 million people into poverty by the end of the year.

As Nabarro stated, the vast majority of the people harmed by these lockdowns have been the worse off.

We all know people who have lost their businesses, lost work, and seen their life savings go up in smoke. That’s especially true for those who work in the service and hospitality industries, which have been decimated by lockdown policies.

And even as the WHO calls on nations to refrain from imposing lockdowns, many governments continue to use this strategy. Schools in many US states remain closed, bars and restaurants are off-limits, and large gatherings–apart from social justice protests–are condemned and shut down by force.

The effects of the prolonged lockdowns on young people are now becoming more clear. A recent study from Edinburgh University says keeping schools shut down will increase the number of deaths due to COVID-19. Added to that, the study says lockdowns “prolong the epidemic, in some cases resulting in more deaths long-term.”

If we want to avoid any more harm, we should immediately end these disastrous policies. Any fresh calls to impose lockdowns should now be viewed with the utmost skepticism.

It’s time for the madness to end. Not only because the World Health Organization says so, but because our very lives depend on it.

As the doctors and scientists stated in the Grand Barrington Declaration signed this month in Massachusetts, the “physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies” have themselves caused devastating effects on both short and long-term health.

We cannot continue to risk our health and well-being in the long-term by shutting in our economies and our people in the short-term. That’s the only way forward if we seek to recover from the ruinous effects of government policy surrounding COVID-19.

Originally published here.

Americans Need to Divorce Health Insurance From Our Jobs

In between the jabs during the first presidential debate, both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden stumbled through their visions for healthcare reform.

While Biden wants to expand a “public option,” a kind of Obamacare plus, Trump focused on his executive orders mandating cheaper drug prices and the congressional repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate.

Neither leaves voters feeling heard.

That there was no substantive health debate is a shame, considering health insurance costs and coverage personally affect every American. Who doesn’t have their own health insurance horror story?

If we want to radically improve insurance and healthcare in our country to ensure that every American receives the care they need, we have to be bold. And that begins with divorcing insurance from where we work.

Not only would that improve the choices of consumers, but it would also help lower costs and provide more options for people who aren’t covered in the current system. That would empower individuals to choose their health plans according to their needs.

As of March 2019, the U.S. Census estimates that 91 percent of the population had health insurance. Nearly one third receive coverage from government health insurance, whether Medicare, Medicaid or state employees. Left out are approximately 29.9 million Americans without health insurance — public, private or otherwise.

The number of uninsured is an important metric because it is the target group for most substantial health insurance reforms of the past decade, including Obamacare at the federal level and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility at the state level, both problematic in their own right.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 45 percent of the uninsured say the cost is too high, while 31 percent of the uninsured lost their coverage because they made too much money for Medicaid or they changed employers.

The single largest category of the insured in our country is those who receive insurance through their jobs, approximately 54 percent. Why is that?

Since 1973, the federal government provided incentives to employers who set up Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) for their employees. Since then, our health insurance market has pivoted to match having a job with health insurance.

Incentives to employers to cover healthcare for their employees is good policy on its face, but it has led to unforeseen economic consequences.

Employee health plans, managed by state-based health insurers (another worthy reform to consider), often become a headache for workers and firms alike.

These plans aim to define benefits and coverage according to a firm’s needs and often have to hire several people to oversee them. Then, bureaucracy balloons, administrative costs creep up, and whatever advantage these plans initially offered is now buried in red tape.

Added to that, if you leave your job for another one or find yourself unemployed, you are now one of the 9 percent without health insurance, which puts you at risk.

There has to be a better way.

The alternative to this system would be a free and open marketplace in which individuals would be empowered to choose their healthcare insurance plan according to their needs, just like car insurance. Employers could offer cash subsidies in line with current federal incentives, but the choice of plan would remain that of the workers.

Such a plan would then empower people to try new innovative healthcare delivery models, such as direct primary care, concierge medicine, and medical startups.

As a relatively young and healthy person, for example, I opt for high deductible emergency insurance that is there when I need it. Smaller health expenses are paid in cash or with a health savings account that offers tax benefits. If I have a more serious injury or illness, my insurance covers the costs.

For me, and likely for millions of other individuals, this arrangement works. It is how insurance is supposed to work. We take out insurance to cover the costs and the risks we don’t foresee, not to cover each routine transaction we make with a provider. It’s the same reason we don’t insure windshield wipers or tires on our cars.

If someone wants more comprehensive insurance, they should be free to take it. And the costs should be reflective of that option.

If employees could be encouraged to build their plans, that would remove administrative and bureaucratic hurdles from existing insurance arrangements or mandates. It would also encourage more competition and lower prices from health insurers, helping bring down costs for employers and employees alike.

But doing so will require a huge shift in the way we think as Americans. We can no longer marry our health insurance to our jobs.

Separation of job and insurance should be a mantra as much as separation of church and state. And federal policy should encourage Americans who take control of their own private health insurance plan.

Originally published here.

Americans need to separate health insurance from our jobs

If we want to radically improve insurance and health care in our country to ensure that every American receives the care they need, we have to be bold. And that begins with divorcing insurance from where we work.

Not only would that improve the choices of consumers, but it would also help lower costs and provide more options for people who aren’t covered in the current system. That would empower individuals to choose their health plans according to their needs.

As of March 2019, the U.S. Census estimates that 91% of the population had health insurance. Nearly one third receive coverage from government health insurance, whether Medicare, Medicaid or state employees. Left out are approximately 29.9 million Americans without health insurance — public, private or otherwise.

The number of uninsured is an important metric because it is the target group for most substantial health insurance reforms of the past decade, including Obamacare at the federal level and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility at the state level, both problematic in their own right.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 45% of the uninsured say the cost is too high, while 31% of the uninsured lost their coverage because they made too much money for Medicaid or they changed employers.

The single largest category of the insured in our country is those who receive insurance through their jobs, approximately 54%. Why is that?

Since 1973, the federal government provided incentives to employers who set up Health Maintenance Organizations for their employees. Since then, our health insurance market has pivoted to match having a job with health insurance. Incentives to employers to cover health care for their employees is good policy on its face, but it has led to unforeseen economic consequences.

Employee health plans, managed by state-based health insurers (another worthy reform to consider), often become a headache for workers and firms alike.

These plans aim to define benefits and coverage according to a firm’s needs and often have to hire several people to oversee them. Then, bureaucracy balloons, administrative costs creep up, and whatever advantage these plans initially offered is now buried in red tape.

Added to that, if you leave your job for another one or find yourself unemployed, you are now one of the 9% without health insurance, which puts you at risk.

There has to be a better way.

The alternative to this system would be a free and open marketplace in which individuals would be empowered to choose their health care insurance plan according to their needs, just like car insurance. Employers could offer cash subsidies in line with current federal incentives, but the choice of plan would remain that of the workers.

Such a plan would then empower people to try new innovative health care delivery models, such as direct primary care, concierge medicine and medical startups.

We take out insurance to cover the costs and the risks we don’t foresee, not to cover each routine transaction we make with a provider. It’s the same reason we don’t insure windshield wipers or tires on our cars.

If someone wants more comprehensive insurance, they should be free to take it. And the costs should be reflective of that option.

If employees could be encouraged to build their plans, that would remove administrative and bureaucratic hurdles from existing insurance arrangements or mandates. It would also encourage more competition and lower prices from health insurers, helping bring down costs for employers and employees alike.

But doing so will require a huge shift in the way we think as Americans. We can no longer marry our health insurance to our jobs.

Separation of job and insurance should be a mantra as much as separation of church and state. And federal policy should encourage Americans who take control of their own private health insurance plan.


Yaël Ossowski is a writer and deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

Originally published here.

Scrapping Public Health England should only be the beginning

Scrapping Public Health England, a body with the ambition of nannying every Brit, is a significant step towards enhancing personal responsibility and allowing greater freedom. But there’s much further to go.

The UK government should drastically change its approach to healthcare and lifestyle regulations to create an enduring change. With 320,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the country and close to 41,000 dead, there is an urgent need to find a scapegoat. PHE is problematic for many reasons, but it is hardly the root of the UK’s failed Covid response. Enormous centralisation and bureaucracy, on the other hand, are what the UK government needs to do away with. The response to the pandemic gives us clear examples.

It took the UK over six weeks to catch up with other developed countries’ testing capabilities. Germany’s decentralised and private laboratory network had already tested over two per cent of its population while the UK had tested a meagre 0.7 per cent. Britain’s centralised testing system, and its failure to scale up Covid-19 tests, might help explain part of the mortality gap between the two countries.

Testing, as we have learned, should be decentralised, which makes it more easily accessible to all groups of the population. The US government failed to stop the pandemic early on for a similar reason. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s initial regulations prevented state and private labs from developing their own coronavirus diagnostic tests.

During the crucial weeks of February and March, it was only possible to get tested for Covid-19 in the US at the Centre for Disease and Control (CDC). The consequences were devastating. As a result of a massive shortage of tests, many undetected cases speeded up the spread of Covid. On 29 February, the US government allowed private labs to begin developing their own tests.

On 16 March, the procedure was decentralised further, making it possible for commercial manufacturers to distribute and labs to use new commercially developed before obtaining an FDA’s Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA). Not long after the red tape had been cut, private labs went on developing tests that were notably more effective, allowing many more people to get tested.

The centralisation at the NHS has also contributed to its vulnerability towards external shocks such as Covid-19. Decentralised hospital systems that promote private competition and patient choice have proven to be much more resilient, as Germany’s system demonstrates.

With that in mind, introducing more market mechanisms in the NHS would not mean that patients would be denied care – you can have universal healthcare in a social insurance model too. Having more private hospitals does not necessarily lead to fewer hospital beds, but a better allocation of skills and resources. Indeed, it allowed Germany to scale up its ICU capacity, as well as keeping services such as cancer treatments and screenings open in different locations.

Another reason not to get overjoyed about the season finale of the Public Health England’s reign is that it would continue to deal with the agency’s other non-Covid public health work, such as obesity policy, until the spring. Boris has set out to introduce radical anti-obesity measures, and there is every reason to expect the PHE will contribute its most poisonous ideas to that debate. One last time.

While free-marketers like me have been cheering the fall of the PHE with sugary milkshakes and burgers, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that nannying will be “embedded right across government… and in the work of every single local authority. We will use this moment to consult widely on how we can embed health improvement more deeply across the board.”

Even without PHE, we need to look at health issues, such as obesity, through the prism of innovation, education and personal responsibility. PHE’s better health marketing campaign to promote a healthy lifestyle is just one part of Boris’ anti-obesity approach, which tells us that even without institutions such as PHE, nannying will likely continue to flourish. That’s where we need a fundamental mindset change, not just an institutional one.

Abolishing old agencies and setting up new ones often gives the impression that such actions will have a positive lasting impact on our lives. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. While it is tempting to think that merely putting an end to the PHE will help make the UK better prepared for health crises, it is naive, to say the least. Neither will it move the needle away from paternalism. But it’s a great start!

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

EU countries to propose excise tax for e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products

EU member states will ask the European Commission this week to place novel tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products under the EU Tobacco Excise Directive, meaning they would be taxed just like traditional tobacco products, according to draft Council conclusions seen by EURACTIV.com.

“The current provisions of Directive 2011/64/EU have become less effective, as they are either no longer sufficient or too narrow to address current and future challenges, concerning some products, such as liquids for e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and other types of next-generation products, which are entering the market,” the draft conclusions read.

“It is therefore urgent and necessary to upgrade the EU regulatory framework, in order to tackle current and future challenges in respect of the functioning of the internal market by harmonising definitions and tax treatment of novel products (such as liquids for e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products), including products, whether or not containing nicotine, that substitute tobacco, in order to avoid legal uncertainty and regulatory disparities in the EU,” the conclusions add.

The Council Conclusions are expected to be endorsed tomorrow (27 May) at a COREPER II meeting.

EU member states also ask the EU executive to present a legislative proposal to the Council, with the objective of “resolving, as appropriate, the concerns set out in these conclusions”.

Although novel tobacco products are regulated under the Tobacco Product Directive focusing on the health aspect, there is currently no EU-wide excise framework as there is for traditional tobacco products.

The situation in the EU single market is quite fragmented, as some member states tax e-liquids and heated tobacco products at different rates while others do not tax them at all.

In January 2018, the lack of sufficient data prompted the European Commission not to propose a harmonised approach for excise taxation of e-cigarettes and other novel tobacco products until further information about these products was available.

However, in February 2020, the executive published a report suggesting that for recent and new products, the lack of harmonisation is a source of concern from the internal market perspective.

“On the market side, developments have accelerated within new e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and a new generation of modern products are coming into the market (containing nicotine or cannabis),” the report read.

“The current lack of harmonisation of the tax regulatory framework for these products is also restricting the possibility to monitor their market development and control their movements,” it added.

The tobacco industry says novel tobacco products and electronic cigarettes have significantly reduced health risks compared to traditional smoking and should therefore be treated accordingly.

On the other hand, EU policymakers insist that they are still harmful, albeit, perhaps, a little less than cigarettes, and all these years have adopted a cautious approach.

The next challenge will now be the pressure that the tobacco industry is expected to put on national governments in order to get the lowest excise tax possible.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Perché il Sistema Tedesco Funziona

l servizio sanitario in Germania ha retto molto meglio la pressione della crisi Covid-19 rispetto al quello italiano. Stiamo pagando scelte di spesa e investimenti sbagliati, e una burocratizzazione estrema del sistema ospedaliero. Cosa potrebbe succedere qualora in autunno il virus tornasse con forza?

PERCHÉ È IMPORTANTE   Sia in Italia che in Germania circa lo 0.4% della popolazione è risultato positivo al Coronavirus. Mentre la curva dei contagi sembra seguire la stessa traiettoria, la percentuale di morti su 1000 casi è di 3,5 volte superiore in Italia che in Germania.

Perché? Gli ospedali tedeschi hanno una maggior resistenza in tempo di crisi, grazie ad una forte competizione tra di essi, siano essi pubblici o privati.

TESTARE LA DIFFERENZA   Al contrario di quanto avviene in Italia il governo centrale tedesco, insieme ai lander, ha dato via libera ai laboratori privati ai test e nel momento in cui scriviamo più del 3% della popolazione è stata testata. In Italia invece i test si limitano allo 0.5% della popolazione fermandosi a quota 3 milioni circa di cui la metà nelle regioni di Lombardia, Veneto e Piemonte.

Ricordando che in Germania l’epidemia è iniziata circa 10 giorni dopo rispetto l’Italia possiamo ampiamente notare come il governo a guida Merkel abbia reagito diversamente da quello Italiano.

CENTRALISMO VS. FEDERALISMO   Infatti non solo in Germania sono i cittadini a decidere se fare il test e dove, ma il governo federale ha anche istituito grazie al supporto di aziende private, i cosiddetti laboratori drive in dove i tamponi vengono fatti direttamente dal finestrino dell’auto.

In Italia al contrario si è deciso per centralizzare tutto in alcuni laboratori statali, e seguendo le direttive OMS, si è deciso di fare i tamponi solo ai soggetti fortemente sintomatici (fatta eccezione per il Veneto dove invece il governo locale ha deciso di testare tutta la popolazione sia essa sintomatica o meno), portando questi laboratori al quasi totale collasso.

SPESA PUBBLICA E POSTI LETTO   Ma veniamo ad un’altra domanda che in tanti si chiedono. Come mai abbiamo così pochi posti di terapia intensiva quando la spesa sanitaria è la seconda voce per volume della spesa pubblica dopo le pensioni? ln Germania i posti letto a inizio pandemia erano circa il triplo di quelli Italiani (8,6 ogni 100 mila abitanti in Italia contro i 33,9, tedeschi) arrivando a circa 50.2 letti ogni 100 mila abitanti a inizio Maggio. 

Se si considera che la maggior parte dei posti in terapia intensiva sono nelle regioni del Veneto, Lombardia, Piemonte ed Emilia Romagna (circa 3600 su un totale di 9200) si può ampiamente dire che una buona parte dell’Italia è quasi completamente scoperta.

Il motivo di questa scelta è da vedersi nelle scelte dei governi degli ultimi 10 anni in cui si è deciso di investire sul welfare più che sulla cura della persona, e dove si è deciso di non copiare i modelli del nord d’Italia ma di proseguire una politica dedicata a sussidi pubblici ad enti burocratici non funzionanti.

UN PAESE A RISCHIO   L’emergenza è passata e ora c’è da chiedersi siamo pronti per una nuova ondata, che molti esperti dicono arriverà in autunno. Siamo attrezzati per una nuova pandemia?

La risposta è no. Dobbiamo lasciare i privati investire, seguire il modello lombardo di organizzazione sanitaria, che in tanti criticano ma che ha resistito ad uno tsunami, e aggiungere il campionamento a tappeto fatto in Veneto. Bisogna insomma riformare la nostra sanità in stile tedesco, lasciando spazio ai privati di fare competizione al pubblico, senza mai dimenticarsi il principio di universalità del sistema sanitario nazionale.

È necessario riformare il nostro sistema e farlo alla svelta, i modelli vincenti ci sono. Sarà la nostra classe politica pronta a fare questa riforma oppure sarà ancora schiava di logiche clientelari?


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Public Health Agencies Care More About Controlling You Than Prepping For Pandemics

Public Health Agencies Care More About Controlling You Than Prepping For Pandemics

What were public health officials at every level of government doing last year? Were they preparing for a pandemic? Or were they using their office to meddle with your lifestyle choices?

The partisan political sniping over Covid-19 is completely predictable and counter-productive. There’s plenty of fault to go around, but the blame-gaming should be ignored or discounted for what it is: self-aggrandizing grandstanding.

It is, however, worthwhile to examine a tension that has been brewing in the public health world for decades. That dichotomy is: should we focus on communicable diseases, as has long been the mission of public health institutions, or do we have enough bandwidth and resources to venture out into the much more controversial area of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?

To get to the answer, think about this. What were public health officials at every level of government doing last year? Five years ago? Were they first ensuring that their track and trace systems were in place for a pandemic? Or were they using their office to meddle with your lifestyle choices?

The discipline of public health has long been rooted in fighting contagious diseases. For the most part, it has done very well. Notwithstanding the current Covid-19 pandemic, sanitation, vaccines and therapies—mainly drugs—have dramatically reduced the toll of communicable diseases.

That success has led many in public health agencies, especially in the United States, to argue that we must now use our limited resources to combat NCDs, and that we can address both effectively. It isn’t exactly working out that way.

Efforts to fight non-contagious diseases such as heart disease and diabetes frequently raise questions about individual liberty, including the freedom to make poor choices. All too often, the politicized debate causes both sides to overstate or manipulate the science supporting their viewpoints.

When former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the biggest booster of today’s public health movement, campaigned against sugary drinks like soda, it landed the city’s health department in hot water. For instance, a taxpayer-funded ad campaign created by the Department of Health showed a photo of a man purportedly with amputated legs. The city’s ad agency had Photoshopped his legs out of the photo to support the valid claim that Type 2 diabetes can lead to amputations.

The Bloomberg administration’s antics, which even elicited criticism from within the health department, indicates the degree to which his wing of the public health movement has lost sight of its most primary and unifying functions: preparedness.

This lack of preparedness is not partisan. It exists in the current Republican administration, as it did in the prior Democrat administration. Cities, counties, and states long governed by each party were equally ill-prepared for a pandemic.

Commentators on the left and the right have referred to Coronavirus and Covid-19 as a “black swan event.” But it doesn’t meet the definition. A pandemic of this type was not only predictable, it was something communicable disease experts have warned about rather specifically for many years. The warning signs were ignored, and we were ill-prepared.

A 2007 review article in the American Society for Microbiology’s publication, Clinical Microbiology Reviews, entitled, “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection,” concluded: “Coronaviruses are well known to undergo genetic recombination, which may lead to new genotypes and outbreaks. The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.”

Rather than marshal finite resources towards preparedness for a coming communicable disease, lots of public health resources, including taxpayer dollars, media attention, and legislative priorities, were deployed to address non-communicable diseases, from domestic violence to gun regulation.

Think back to a different time not so long ago. During the second half of 2019, federal, state and city health officials throughout the country were busy confronting a new and scary lung disease. The health reporters covering them churned out news articles, regularly garnering front-page placement. Major charities such as Bloomberg Philanthropies were making large public health grants. So it should come as no surprise that the American public and political leaders were keenly focused on this emerging health threat.

The disease wasn’t Covid-19, of course. It was a something the Centers for Disease Control called e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury, or EVALI.

At the time, public health activists were, for years, calling for bans on the types of e-cigarettes used to quit smoking. Despite strong evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than smoking and can help smokers quit, public health agencies treated e-cigarettes as the most important threat to public health. Yet they still failed to convince policymakers to institute widespread bans on the most popular e-cigarettes.

But as consciousness of EVALI reached a crescendo, states began to ban most flavored e-cigarettes, and the FDA further tightened the regulatory screws on nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.

It turned out that none of these nicotine e-cigarettes were ever responsible for the lung disease that bears their name. It took until late December for the Centers for Disease Control to (partly) acknowledge that the lung injuries were caused not by vaping liquid nicotine e-cigarettes such as Juul, but by the use of THC oil contaminated with vitamin E acetate.

Public health agencies were so ideologically opposed to e-cigarettes as a tool for tobacco harm reduction that they sowed panic, promulgated misinformation, and actually caused a failure to identify the true culprit in a life-saving and timely way. Still, nobody has been held accountable.

So, back to the question about communicable and non-communicable disease: Has public health been able to “do both” well? It turns out, that when purportedly trying to do both, public health hasn’t been able to do either effectively.

I’m not suggesting that public health’s EVALI scandal was the only or even primary culprit for the failure of public health departments around the country to ensure that their communities had an adequate supply of personal protective equipment in the event of a predictable communicable disease outbreak, or that the CDC was otherwise preoccupied. Instead, the EVALI episode was more of a symptom of something wrong in public health.

The institution of public health has largely been co-opted by those with a desire to control individual choices to such a degree that it has largely lost sight of its fundamental role of pandemic preparedness. At this point, taxpayers should realize that we are giving the keys to the public health car to people who have long been driving in the wrong direction.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

The folly of opposing patents on a Covid vaccine

The folly of opposing patents on a Covid vaccine

Doctors Without Borders does incredible work in the interest of patients around the globe. It has an exemplary track record of bringing doctors to the front lines of combat zones, famines, and pandemics — helping those patients that are left alone and victims of large crises.

During the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, MSF (to use its French acronym) was the leading organisation fighting for patients — far more so than the World Health Organization, which is bureaucratic and has slow response times. For that and its previous 48 years of service, it needs to be applauded.

However, its current opposition to patents on drugs treating Covid-19 misunderstands the importance of intellectual property rights for medical innovation.

MSF is also running a campaign on access to medicines which distorts the realities of the drug market, while calling for solutions that would harm scientific innovation. The “Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines” wants to increase the availability of medicines in developing nations by addressing drug pricing and intellectual property rights. In the eyes of MSF, producers and researchers are enriching themselves off the backs of those who can least afford it.

What MSF gets wrong is that intellectual property rights and patents do not hinder innovation but actually enable medical progress.

Dozens of pharmaceutical companies have not only started searching for a vaccine against Covid-19 but have also thrown a lot of resources into getting millions of tests produced, looking at what existing drugs might be able to treat the disease, and donating money and materials to health systems across the world.

In fact, the philanthropic efforts of pharmaceutical companies are impressively underreported. By any standard, these companies are offering charitable support, including to organisations working with patients on the ground. However, Doctors Without Borders has said that it will not accept in-kind donations of drugs from pharmaceutical companies, but instead purchase them at market prices. Donors to MSF would probably be stunned by the idea that their donations are spent on drugs that MSF could have got for free.

While the industry also cares about access a lot, dysfunctional health systems and infrastructure are often the barrier between a patient and a treatment or vaccine. We need to realise that charitable acts are only possible if profits are also encouraged. Pharmaceutical companies develop drugs, protect their inventions and make profits. If you cut out patent rights from the equation, the incentive to innovate disappears, and life-saving medicines that cost billions to develop will stay off the market.

Doctors without Borders calls for preventing drug profiteering on the novel coronavirus, while ignoring the significant donations being made to help stop this virus. In fact, most efforts to combat the disease are public-private partnerships, much like the fight against Ebola was.

Remember too that stopping companies making a profit from drugs both eliminates incentives and ignores both the risks and the costs of working on a new drug. Who are we to tell lab workers to come into work every day for free, when there are risks associated with going to work and interacting with fellow employees?

The idea of so-called compulsory licenses, which de facto takes a patent away from a manufacturer in one country and gives it to another, might even delay the introduction of a Covid-19 vaccine even more. It takes know how and supply chains to manufacture and deliver a working vaccine. It is questionable whether a vaccine produced under compulsory licensing would actually be less expensive than the original one.

Much can be said about drug manufacturing and access to essential medicines. But a proper debate needs to be held on the basis of certain basic facts. Among these is that pharmaceutical companies invest vast sums of money to provide life-saving medicines, and those same companies have also taken action to help those in the most need. With Covid-19, we are facing one of the biggest public health crises ever – Innovation and medical breakthroughs are needed now more than ever. Undermining the ownership of innovations will definitely not lead to the breakthroughs that will ultimately get us out of this nightmare.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

I celebrated World IP Day but many didn’t

Last Sunday (April 26th) marked World Intellectual Property Day. While the existence of IP has allowed innovators to enjoy the rewards of their invention, more and more voices speak up against patents and IP in general. So while I celebrated World IP Day many didn’t even want to show up to the party.

The current COVID-19 crises triggers many voices that ask to ban all patents of COVID-19 related tests, drugs, and vaccines. I stumbled ac ross some very wrong statements and want to highlight these and explain what their authors got wrong.

Happy World IP Day to me…

Michael Barker for instance writes:

Flowing from the relentless drive for super-profits, we can also understand the process by which big pharma makes decisions on the type of drugs they will prioritise for mass production. Medicines that can be sold to wealthy consumers in developed countries, are fast-tracked, while drugs and treatments that might benefit the poorest billions simply fall by the wayside. Human life is secondary to the pursuit of profits.

The author might not know that depending on the country you live in and the insurance you have, drug prices can vary enormously, not because of the decisions of the manufacturer, but because of the local reimbursement models. However, producers also sell at different initial costs in developing countries. The British company GlaxoSmithKline usually caps their drug prices in emerging markets at 25% of the price they ask for in developed countries. In many cases the price is way below the 25% cap. The same company offers their HIV/AIDS treatment at merely variable cost in South Africa. Since 2001 the Swiss company Novartis supplies the fixed-dose artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) without profit to public-sector buyers. Over 850 million antimalarial treatments have been delivered to patients in more than 60 malaria-endemic countries. American biotechnology company Gilead has an access partnership campaign that licenses out their drugs to local partners in low- and middle-income countries, selling drugs at cost.   

Another group that sometimes totally misunderstands the pharmaceutical research industry is the well-respected NGO Doctors without Borders (MSF). While I am a personal fan of their work on the front lines of health conflicts, I wholeheartedly disagree with their understanding of patents and profits.

MSF states:

The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today called for no patents or profiteering on drugs, tests, or vaccines used for the COVID-19 pandemic, and for governments to prepare to suspend and override patents and take other measures, such as price controls, to ensure availability, reduce prices and save more lives.

Price controls will actually lead to shortages – We have seen this in the past and see this in the current COVID-19 crisis. Whenever a government limits the price of a good, its supply tends to go down. To controlling prices and at the same time ensuring availability is just and oxymoron. If MSF genuinely wants to save more lives (which I believe), they should encourage flexible prices and patent-protection – At the same time they might want to reconsider their own policy of not accepting in kind donations of the pharmaceutical industry…

MSF campaigners raise a point in favour of eliminating private property protection, saying that the ownership hasn’t even been established through private funds. Since manufacturers receive public grants for their work, their results should also be public ownership. While it is true that one in three Euros spent on pharmaceutical research is public money, it is also true that this public expenditure is offset by the taxes paid. The industry, employees, and customers pay directly a much higher amount of taxes than is received subsidies. Total R&D expenditure in the UK in 2015 was 4.1bn GBP (of which roughly 1.2 GBP are public funds) and direct tax contribution was 300% higher at 3.7. Billion.

A roadmap for the NHS: lessons from Germany

In both Germany and the United Kingdom, around 0.18 per cent of the total population has recently tested positive for coronavirus. While the spread of the pandemic is roughly equal in these countries, the fatality rate is 420 per cent higher for patients treated by the NHS compared with those treated in Germany. This is because Germany’s hospitals are better placed to be resilient in times of crisis, thanks to the private and competitive aspects of the country’s healthcare system.

Germany’s decentralised and private laboratory network had already tested over two per cent of its population when the UK’s figure still stood at a meagre 0.7%. Britain’s centralised testing system, and its failure to scale up Covid-19 tests, might explain part of this mortality gap. One could assume that only very severe cases are being tested by the NHS and, as such, the fatality rate of this more concentrated group is higher.

Even if you make very generous adjustments to the figures and assume that Britain’s fatality rate would remain unchanged even if the NHS tested as many people as the German system, the UK would still have a 49 per cent higher death rate.

Not only are the NHS’s testing facilities incapable of dealing with black swan events, the entire healthcare system simply doesn’t have sufficient resilience to minimise the harm caused to patients by a virus such as Covid-19.

Conversely, Germany’s mainly private and non-profit hospital system leads the way in Europe when it comes to successfully facing this wave of patients. In early March, hospitals had already freed up beds in intensive care by pushing back elective surgeries, and the total capacity of ICU beds was ramped up 40 per cent within a month. Germany’s hospitals now have a total of 40,000 ICU beds and 30,000 beds with respiration units.

And all of this was achieved while still ensuring the provision of critical services such as cancer care and screening, which is something that the NHS is struggling to do – a problem that may cause more harm than Covid-19.

Thanks to the recent increase, Germany has now 48 ICU beds per 100,000 inhabitants, which is more than seven times the capacity the UK currently has. This month, the NHS published the occupancy rate of critical care beds in February, which showed over 80 per cent of those were in use. And while Germany was deploying a new public database showing critical care capacity per hospital, which is updated at least once a day, the NHS paused the publication of many of its own statistics, and those that are released are at least a month old.

What’s more, Germany’s new online ICU capacity register was built overnight, a tool that provides patients and doctors with invaluable guidance. One map, for example, shows that in Bavaria, which is the state worst-hit by Covid-19, just 16.1 per cent of ICU beds are occupied by patients with coronavirus. It also shows the available number of empty ICU beds. Bavaria still has 37 per cent of all its ICU beds empty and can, therefore, comfortably treat three times more Covid-19 patients than now.

This successful approach has taken place within a system where the government owns less than 30 per cent of all hospitals. Germany’s universal healthcare system embraces competition and private ownership of hospitals and outpatient services. So while the social insurance system covers 90 per cent of the population, the provision of care is mainly carried out by private for-profit hospitals or charities. 

Simply put, private hospitals and competition lead to much more efficient structures, and Germany’s decentralised healthcare system, which allowed for a speedy mitigation strategy, is now showing its value by saving thousands of lives. Indeed, Germany is not only weathering this storm better than the NHS but it is even able to fly in and treat hundreds of patients from Italy, France and Spain.

British policymakers will need to show courage in the coming months and be honest about the failings of the UK’s healthcare system during this crisis. There are two crucial lessons that will need to be learned in order to prevent, or at least mitigate, another lacklustre response in the future.

The first is that introducing more market mechanisms in the NHS would not mean that patients were denied care – you can have universal healthcare in a social insurance model too. And the second is that having more private hospitals does not necessarily lead to fewer hospital beds, but a better allocation of skills and resources. Indeed, it allowed Germany to scale up its ICU capacity, as well as keeping services such as cancer treatments and screenings open in different locations.

The centralised nature of NHS does not allow for any part of the chain to fail. Unfortunately, failure is in our nature and less centralised systems are therefore necessary in order to achieve resilience and adaptability in times of urgent need.

We should make the UK fit for the next nasty virus by decentralising testing and allowing for more private sector involvement in our healthcare system. It’s high time we faced the facts about the NHS and stopped ignoring success stories from around the world.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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