Better Late than Never for Eric Topol
Cardiologist Eric Topol writes:
Rapidly scale the production of the anti-Covid pill Paxlovid, which is about to get FDA emergency authorization and the topic of my last post here. There will be a large number of non-mild infections going forward and we now have a treatment that is expected to work extremely well against Omicron, but the supply is dreadfully short. I wrote more about this today Enacting the Defense Production Act, as the President has done for rapid test production, is one way to solve this shortage problem. Our healthcare workforce, already compromised in numbers and morale, will likely be hit hard by Omicron infections. Having a pill treatment that knocks viral load down by 10-fold quickly, to potentially get them back in action in a short time lag (e.g. 2 days instead of 10) may prove vital. We need to get studies on transmission of Omicron done ASAP, and particularly with Paxlovid treatment to nail this time interval down, as discussed in my recent Q&A with New York magazine.
Good for him. He wants the FDA to approve Paxlovid rapidly.
This is better late never. Contrast his view here with his view that he hoped the FDA would slow down the Covid vaccine and make sure it didn’t get approved until after the November presidential election:
If Trump badgered the US Food and Drug Administration into prematurely releasing a vaccine that wasn’t effective, or even caused harm, it could shake the public’s trust in any covid-19 vaccine. And if we are to achieve wide immunity against SARS-CoV-2, we’ll need to vaccinate more people than the number that get flu shots each year. Releasing a vaccine that people are afraid of could do more harm than good.
To prevent such a scenario, Topol led online calls for FDA commissioner Steve Hahn to resign after his agency was criticized for cowing to political pressure—and then phoned Hahn a number of times to urge him to resist Trump’s influence. Topol also targeted Pfizer, the only pharmaceutical company likely to seek approval of its vaccine before Election Day, which eventually set up a meeting for him with its vaccine team.
On October 16, Topol and his allies were able to claim success: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company would not be able to seek emergency approval for its vaccine before the third week in November, owing to safety standards that had been put in place by the FDA. Those standards had been issued against Trump’s wishes, but at the urging of Topol and other advocates.
The above is from Antonio Regalado, “One doctor’s campaign to stop a covid-19 vaccine being rushed through before Election Day,” MIT Technology Review, October 19, 2020.
Call me cynical about cardiologist Eric Topol’s motives, if you will, but in this case I spell cynical r-e-a-l-i-s-t-i-c.
HT2 chrisare, a commenter on this post.
Question: With the benefit of hindsight, and assuming, as seems plausible from the MIT Technology Review article referenced above, that Topol helped slow the vaccine approval by a few weeks, how many extra deaths did Dr. Topol contribute to?