Ending Pandemics Isn't a Very Sustainable Business Model
Corporations don't sell cures. They sell disease.
“Is curing patients a sustainable business model?”
That’s what an actual report from Goldman Sachs analysts said back in 2018. It’s something you don’t want to believe at first. Then you put on your sociopath cap and think for a couple of minutes, and it makes perfect sense. The answer is no. If you didn’t care about people, then you wouldn’t want to cure their diseases. You’d want to milk them for profit until they died.
You’d sell everyone drugs and treatments that worked just well enough to keep them alive and sort of functional. You’d invest a lot of money in that model. This idea already courses throughout capitalism.
Sustainable business model = more money.
If curing patients doesn’t make enough money, it stands to reason that ending a pandemic doesn’t either. It makes more sense to keep it going, and to convince everyone they’re safe as long as they get your mediocre vaccine, which carries the added bonus of accelerating viral evolution. You’d especially want to convince everyone they shouldn’t be wearing a mask or installing air ventilation and purification. That’d shrink your customer base.
Every billionaire knows the best way to make money is to produce and ship things as cheaply as possible, as fast as possible, to as many people as possible. You don’t want to sell durable products. You want to sell cheap ones that need a steady stream of updates, upgrades, and replacements.
If you’re in healthcare, you don’t want to sell vaccines anymore.
You want to sell a vaccine subscription service.
It’s called minimum viable product.
Drug companies want to keep diseases in circulation.
Healthcare experts used to try and eradicate viruses.
Now it’s 2022, and experts no longer dominate medicine. CEOs and lobbyists do. They decide the government's response to threats. They don’t do what’s best for everyone. They don’t care about the greater good.
They do what’s most profitable.
I’m not usually into conspiracy theories, but this one has gained traction. It’s logical. It explains so much about what’s going on right now, including why Scott Gottlieb keeps talking out both sides of his mouth, one minute downplaying masks, next minute sharing info like this:
Of course, Gottlieb wants to sell vaccines and boosters.
He doesn’t want to sell masks.
The profit model also explains why Monica Gandhi, Leana Wen, Vinay Prasad, and Francois Balloux continue to pump out a steady stream of op-ed columns in major newspapers, doing the exact same thing. Over the last year, they’ve committed to ridiculous claims that always turn out to be wrong. And yet, the media keeps bringing them in as guests to sabotage public health.
Nothing they say or do makes any sense until you rethink their motives. They want to keep the virus in circulation. All of them do. Every single one of them, from the head of Pfizer down to the last pundit, has a range of stated and unstated reasons to keep Covid going for as long as possible.
It’s good for business.
They’re selling a crappy vaccine.
I think it’s pretty clear at this point.
The Pfizer vaccine sorta works. It keeps most of us from immediately getting sick and dying. It sorta mitigates your risk of Long Covid. It doesn’t prevent infection or transmission. It’s actually the lowest dose of mRNA that would generate an immune response, which says a lot all by itself.
There was no health reason for this decision. Moderna went with the highest safe dose, and their vaccine seems to be more potent and effective across the board. In other words, they didn’t skimp.
Pfizer says they’ll update their boosters once a year. They’re not scheduling vaccine updates to keep up with the latest variants. They’re scheduling them to maximize profits. It helps them to get on a regular, predictable production cycle—regardless of the facts on the ground.
It’s not exactly a secret.
It’s the minimum.
They lobby politicians nonstop.
Pfizer spends roughly $10 million a year lobbying D.C. politicians and making direct campaign contributions. That’s 10 times more than their competitors.
They have extreme influence.
That also makes sense.
If your profits depend on government decisions, then you’d want to make sure they do what you want, even if it’s not in the public’s interest.
Earlier this year, they used that influence to delay the approval of Moderna’s vaccine for children under five. It was some of the most transparent favoritism I’ve ever seen, and they did it right out in the open.
Other people saw it, too.
Pfizer buys politicians. I suspect they buy media outlets, too. They buy healthcare influencers. It’s how every industry works. If corporations don’t own them outright, they support them with advertising. They buy them nice stuff. Even I’ve been offered money to write stories about current events with a certain slant or angle. I’ve been offered hundreds of dollars, and I turned it down. If random bloggers are getting hundreds of dollars to say things, imagine what someone with an audience of millions must rake in. It could be six figures.
Healthcare is about money.
Real solutions are too affordable.
It’s all perfectly logical, and simple.
It’s downright elegant.
If you want to maximize your profits off a pandemic, then you don’t promote masks and ventilation. Those are cheap solutions. Anyone can do them. An N95 mask costs a quarter to manufacture. Most importantly, they’re highly effective. We could virtually wipe out diseases if we wanted to, just by keeping our guard up and cleaning the air. That’s an elegant solution, too.
Masks and vaccines aren’t mutually exclusive, either.
They work together.
Of course, stopping transmission isn’t a viable business model. That’s what a Goldman Sachs analyst would say. If Goldman executives are asking that question, I guarantee you Pfizer is doing the same.
They don’t want viruses to go away.
They like them.
They’re selling the virus.
I’ve got Don Ford on Twitter to thank for this pearl:
If eradication is not their goal then the product they are selling you on is the virus itself.
Hey, it’s not that crazy at all.
It’s logical. It’s elegant. Pfizer invested a good deal of time and money into making sure everyone kept going out and spreading the virus. They couldn’t just come out and tell the truth about why. They had to come up with convincing reasons. So they got all of our politicians and the media advocating for the virus. They spent months saying mild infections were good for us. Then they spent months telling us infection was inevitable. Now they’re telling us it’s over.
It’s all a lie. The opposite is true.
They want customers.
The truth will come out this winter.
Pfizer actually did too good of a job.
They convinced everyone the pandemic was over, so now they’re not even getting the latest booster. They accidentally killed their own revenue stream. That’s what unchecked capitalism does, in the end.
It consumes itself.
Pfizer actually would’ve made more money if they’d just been honest. A lot of people would’ve kept masking and getting boosters, if they’d been told the truth. Instead, they moved in the direction of lies.
Everyone’s going to learn the hard way this winter. The media might even start telling the truth again. Pfizer isn’t going to invest more money in lies if there’s no profit in it. Once they’ve sold as much vaccine as they can, they’ll cut the purse strings. Maybe we’ll eventually get nasal vaccines that work, like the ones being used in China. Maybe our government will expand access to Novavax, and allow us to get it as a booster. It’s in the works.
Maybe they’ll stop slamming masks…
We need to keep doing the right thing.
Here’s the most important part:
We all need to keep speaking up about masks and air ventilation. We need to keep calling out mainstream media when they lie and distort facts. It doesn’t matter how many vaccines and boosters we get. Masks and ventilation stop the spread of disease. It’s that simple. We should be doing it. They’re a powerful asset in the toolbox. It’s easy to get discouraged and give up. It’s easy to say you’ll just keep masking forever, and let everyone else do what they want.
I know, we all need a break sometimes. So if you’re exhausted, take your break. Wait for the right time and place to advocate for masks and ventilation. Nobody expects you to squawk about it 24/7.
Just don’t give up forever.
If we truly give up, we really will be wearing masks forever, because Covid will keep spreading and mutating. It’ll keep getting worse.
It won’t stop.
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Wildfire, you have written the best article about the pandemic I have read yet. I wish I had written it. I am going to keep citing it and linking it in my own work.
I will, of course, keep squawking for masks and ventilation. Also for removal of governments with a neoliberal orientation. Whenever I have something new on the subject, I will put a link in this comment box.
Keep squawking, Jessica.
This week, I was in the hospital. Had an cyst that exploded into an abscess over my tailbone. This article illuminated many things, but I want to highlight my recent stay in terms of this article.
1. I would consider hospitals less like a monopoly and more like an utility. Regulation of these hospitals varies per state and even local regions. Hospital “franchises” have risen so that one hospital brand controls an area, so that if you are somehow kicked out of that hospital, you will have to go much further outside the region for help. The regulations ties into what funding individual hospitals get from federal and state funding as well as various government functions like Medicare and Medicaid. By being an utility, they blur the line before the non-profit organizations most of these hospitals claim to be and the for-profit mechanisms that have, including a CEO, CFO, CIO, and so on.
2. The difference between COVID-19 and most other diseases is that the other diseases are more likely to already be a life-long disease. For example, I have diabetes. I’ll have to be on some sort of cocktail of medications, insulins, and so forth, including technologies for the rest of my life, even if I “beat diabetes.” I can not do the cheap prick finger glucose meters because I can never procure enough blood on my own (and the nurses there struggled to get enough blood for all the data my blood provided for my illness), so I have to use the Abbot Labs created FreeStyle Libre 2, or a Dexcom if I need to inject insulin at a moment’s notice. Those are much more higher cost than a simple glucose meter. Advertisements are currently try to lure patients away from the cheap scans to these newer scans, at a higher price.
3. By the way, the problem with a hospital being considered as a utility is that there isn’t much incentive to update policies and technologies. I spent time in an ER room and two hospital rooms. Technology there varied and nursed complained about how their technologies would go down or would not work or they couldn’t get their combination scan card and password to work. I was getting temperature readings from a prod below my tongue and not from an ear probe or even a face scan. If people can purchase more up-to-date medical tech than a hospital, that’s a problem. Lots of the policies seemed to be stuck in the 1990’s like how hospital food is mass-manufactered to mask policies. Pressure from the public and governments to not enforce the mask mandate now is very good even through such signs mandating masks in the hospital rooms are still up. It’s easier to update the advertising than to update the medication, technologies, or policies needed to make sure the general public are educated about Covid. Now it seems they are simply abusing the public’s general lack of knowledge for their own financial benefit, and shrug about it if challenged.
I think what my stay and this article has made crystal clear to me that is that health care from hospitals to pharmacies to medical techologies to insurance are incredibly broken and exploited for a few people and groups within these institutions. The difference between health care and most other institutions, like say education, is that even health care flaws and exploitations will harm all wealth classes eventually, not just the poor. That is why eventually, I believe a subset industry will be private hospitals for the wealthy where they could overcome the difficulties everyone else has in health care now because of the universality that health care institutions have currently. It’ll probably emerge first in the UK, then the USA, then the rest of the wealthy nations.