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Brownstone Institute

Justices’ Grave Error in Murthy v. Missouri

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Aaron KheriatyAARON KHERIATY 

Along with my co-plaintiffs, I was at the Supreme Court last week for oral arguments in our Murthy v. Missouri case, in which we are challenging the federal government’s alleged censorship on social media. The Supreme Court will likely rule in June whether to uphold, modify, or strike down the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ injunction against five federal agencies, in what, the district court judge wrote, “arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.”

At the hearing, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that emails between the White House and Facebook “showed constant pestering of Facebook.” He went on to comment, “I cannot imagine federal officials taking this approach to the print media…It’s treating these platforms like subordinates.” He then asked the government’s attorney, “Would you treat the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal this way? Do you think the print media considers themselves ‘partners’ with government? I can’t imagine the federal government doing that to them.”

The government’s attorney had to admit, “The anger is unusual” — referring to White House official Rob Flaherty literally cursing at a Facebook executive and berating him for not taking action quickly enough to comply with the government’s censorship demands.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh followed up, asking, “On the anger point, do you think federal government officials regularly call up journalists and berate them?” It’s worth recalling that Kavanaugh worked as a White House attorney before he was appointed to the court, as did Justices John Roberts and Elena Kagan. No doubt there were times they dialed a journalist or editor to try to convince them to change a story, clarify a factual assertion, or even hold or quash the publication of a piece. Kavanaugh admitted, “It’s not unusual for the government to claim national security or wartime necessity to suppress a story.”

Perhaps colorful language is sometimes used in these conversations, as Kavanaugh himself hinted. Kagan concurred: “Like Justice Kavanaugh, I have had some experience encouraging the press to suppress its own speech…This happens literally thousands of times a day in the federal government.” With a wink to the other former executive branch attorneys on the bench, Roberts quipped, “I have no experience coercing anyone,” which generated a rare chuckle from the bench and audience.

This analogy to government interactions with print media, however, does not hold in the case of the government’s relationship with social mediaThere are several crucial differences that profoundly change the power dynamic of those interactions in ways directly relevant to our case. These differences facilitate, in Alito’s words, the government treating the platforms like subordinates in ways that would be impossible with print media.

Behind the Scenes

First, when a government official contacts a newspaper, he is talking directly to the journalist or editor — the person whose speech he is trying to alter or curtail. The writer or editor has the freedom to say, “I see your point, so I’ll hold my story for one week to allow the CIA time to get their spies out of Afghanistan.” But the speaker also has the freedom to say, “Nice try, but I’m not persuaded I got the facts wrong on this, so I’m running the story.” The publisher here has the power, and there is little the government can do to threaten that power.

By contrast, with requests or demands for social media censorship, the government was never talking with the person whose speech was censored, but with a third party operating entirely behind the scenes. As my co-plaintiff, the eminent epidemiologist Dr. Martin Kulldorff, quipped, “I would have been happy to get a call from a government official and hear about why I should take down a post or change my views on the scientific evidence.”

Power Dynamic

Additionally, there is little the government can do to destroy the business model and cripple the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and the journalists and editors know this. If the government pushes too hard, it will also be front page news the next day: “Government Trying to Bully The Post to Censor Our Breaking Story,” with the lede, “Naturally, we told them to go pound sand.”

But the power dynamic is entirely different with Facebook, Google, and X (formerly Twitter): The government does have a sword of Damocles to hang over the head of noncompliant social media companies if they refuse to censor — in fact, several swords, including the threat to remove Section 230 liability protections, which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has accurately called an “existential threat” to their business, or threats to break up their monopolies. As the record in our lawsuit shows, the government explicitly made just such threats, even publicly on several occasions, in direct connection to their censorship demands.

Furthermore, unlike the major tech companies, newspapers or magazines do not have massive government contracts that might disappear if they refuse to comply. When the FBI or Department of Homeland Security calls Facebook or X with censorship demands, the corporate executives know that a weaponized agency has the power to launch frivolous but onerous investigations at any time. It thus becomes virtually impossible for social media companies to tell the government to take a hike — indeed, they may have a fiduciary duty to shareholders not to incur serious risks by resisting government pressure.

The text of the First Amendment doesn’t say the government shall not “prevent” or “forbid” free speech; it says the government shall not “abridge” free speech — i.e., shall not do anything to lesson a citizen’s ability to speak or diminish one’s potential reach. A sensible and clear injunction would simply state, “Government shall not request that social media companies remove or suppress legal speech.”

But if the justices want to distinguish between persuasion and coercion in the injunction, they need to appreciate that social media companies operate in a very different relationship with government than traditional print media. These asymmetrical power dynamics create a relationship ripe for unconstitutional government coercion.

Republished from The Federalist

Author

  • Aaron Kheriaty

    Aaron Kheriaty, Senior Brownstone Institute Counselor, is a Scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, DC. He is a former Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, where he was the director of Medical Ethics.

Brownstone Institute

The WHO’s Proposed Pandemic Agreements Worsen Public Health

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY David BellDAVID BELL

The WHO decided that the response for a Toronto aged care resident and a young mother in a Malawian village should be essentially the same – stop them from meeting family and working, then inject them with the same patented chemicals.

Much has been written on the current proposals putting the World Health Organization (WHO) front and center of future pandemic responses. With billions of dollars in careers, salaries, and research funding on the table, it is difficult for many to be objective. However, there are fundamentals here that everyone with public health training should agree upon. Most others, if they take time to consider, would also agree. Including, when divorced from party politicking and soundbites, most politicians.

So here, from an orthodox public health standpoint, are some problems with the proposals on pandemics to be voted on at the World Health Assembly at the end of this month.

Unfounded Messaging on Urgency

The Pandemic Agreement (treaty) and IHR amendments have been promoted based on claims of a rapidly increasing risk of pandemics. In fact, they pose an ‘existential threat’ (i.e. one that may end our existence) according to the G20’s High Level Independent Panel in 2022. However, the increase in reported natural outbreaks on which the WHO, the World Bank, G20, and others based these claims is shown to be unfounded in a recent analysis from the UK’s University of Leeds. The main database on which most outbreak analyses rely, the GIDEON database, shows a reduction in natural outbreaks and resultant mortality over the past 10 to 15 years, with the prior increase between 1960 and 2000 fully consistent with the development of the technologies necessary to detect and record such outbreaks; PCR, antigen and serology tests, and genetic sequencing.

The WHO does not refute this but simply ignores it. Nipah viruses, for example, only ‘emerged’ in the late 1990s when we found ways to actually detect them. Now we can readily distinguish new variants of coronavirus to promote uptake of pharmaceuticals. The risk does not change by detecting them; we just change the ability to notice them. We also have the ability to modify viruses to make them worse – this is a relatively new problem. But do we really want an organization influenced by China, with North Korea on its executive board (insert your favorite geopolitical rivals), to manage a future bioweapons emergency?

Irrespective of growing evidence that Covid-19 was not a natural phenomenon, modelling that the World Bank quotes as suggesting a 3x increase in outbreaks over the next decade actually predicts that a Covid-like event will recur less than once per century. Diseases that the WHO uses to suggest an increase in outbreaks over the past 20 years, including cholera, plague, yellow fever, and influenza variants were orders of magnitude worse in past centuries.

This all makes it doubly confusing that the WHO is breaking its own legal requirements in order to push through a vote without Member States having time to properly review implications of the proposals. The urgency must be for reasons other than public health need. Others can speculate why, but we are all human and all have egos to protect, even when preparing legally binding international agreements.

Low Relative Burden

The burden (e.g. death rate or life years lost) of acute outbreaks is a fraction of the overall disease burden, far lower than many endemic infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis, and a rising burden of non-communicable disease. Few natural outbreaks over the past 20 years have resulted in more than 1,000 deaths – or 8 hours of tuberculosis mortality. Higher-burden diseases should dominate public health priorities, however dull or unprofitable they may seem.

With the development of modern antibiotics, major outbreaks from the big scourges of the past like Plague and typhus ceased to occur. Though influenza is caused by a virus, most deaths are also due to secondary bacterial infections. Hence, we have not seen a repeat of the Spanish flu in over a century. We are better at healthcare than we used to be and have improved nutrition (generally) and sanitation. Widespread travel has eliminated the risks of large immunologically naive populations, making our species more immunologically resilient. Cancer and heart disease may be increasing, but infectious diseases overall are declining. So where should we focus?

Lack of Evidence Base

Investment in public health requires both evidence (or high likelihood) that the investment will improve outcomes and an absence of significant harm. The WHO has demonstrated neither with their proposed interventions. Neither has anyone else. The lockdown and mass vaccination strategy promoted for Covid-19 resulted in a disease that predominantly affects elderly sick people leading to 15 million excess deaths, even increasing mortality in young adults. In past acute respiratory outbreaks, things got better after one or perhaps two seasons, but with Covid-19 excess mortality persisted.

Within public health, this would normally mean we check whether the response caused the problem. Especially if it’s a new type of response, and if past understanding of disease management predicted that it would. This is more reliable than pretending that past knowledge did not exist. So again, the WHO (and other public-private partnerships) are not following orthodox public health, but something quite different.

Centralization for a Highly Heterogeneous Problem

Twenty-five years ago, before private investors became so interested in public health, it was accepted that decentralization was sensible. Providing local control to communities that could then prioritize and tailor health interventions themselves can provide better outcomes. Covid-19 underlined the importance of this, showing how uneven the impact of an outbreak is, determined by population age, density, health status, and many other factors. To paraphrase the WHO, ‘Most people are safe, even when some are not.’

However, for reasons that remain unclear to many, the WHO decided that the response for a Toronto aged care resident and a young mother in a Malawian village should be essentially the same – stop them from meeting family and working, then inject them with the same patented chemicals. The WHO’s private sponsors, and even the two largest donor countries with their strong pharmaceutical sectors, agreed with this approach. So too did the people paid to implement it. It was really only history, common sense, and public health ethics that stood in the way, and they proved much more malleable.

Absence of Prevention Strategies Through Host Resilience

The WHO IHR amendments and Pandemic Agreement are all about detection, lockdowns, and mass vaccination. This would be good if we had nothing else. Fortunately, we do. Sanitation, better nutrition, antibiotics, and better housing halted the great scourges of the past. An article in the journal Nature in 2023 suggested that just getting vitamin D at the right level may have cut Covid-19 mortality by a third. We already knew this and can speculate on why it became controversial. It’s really basic immunology.

Nonetheless, nowhere within the proposed US$30+ billion annual budget is any genuine community and individual resilience supported. Imagine putting a few billion more into nutrition and sanitation. Not only would you dramatically reduce mortality from occasional outbreaks, but more common infectious diseases, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, would also go down. This would actually reduce the need for pharmaceuticals. Imagine a pharmaceutical company, or investor, promoting that. It would be great for public health, but a suicidal business approach.

Conflicts of Interest

All of which brings us, obviously, to conflicts of interest. The WHO, when formed, was essentially funded by countries through a core budget, to address high-burden diseases on country request. Now, with 80% of its use of funds specified directly by the funder, its approach is different. If that Malawian village could stump up tens of millions for a program, they would get what they ask for. But they don’t have that money; Western countries, Pharma, and software moguls do.

Most people on earth would grasp that concept far better than a public health workforce heavily incentivized to think otherwise. This is why the World Health Assembly exists and has the ability to steer the WHO in directions that don’t harm their populations. In its former incarnation, the WHO considered conflict of interest to be a bad thing. Now, it works with its private and corporate sponsors, within the limits set by its Member States, to mold the world to their liking.

The Question Before Member States

To summarize, while it’s sensible to prepare for outbreaks and pandemics, it’s even more sensible to improve health. This involves directing resources to where the problems are and using them in a way that does more good than harm. When people’s salaries and careers become dependent on changing reality, reality gets warped. The new pandemic proposals are very warped. They are a business strategy, not a public health strategy. It is the business of wealth concentration and colonialism – as old as humanity itself.

The only real question is whether the majority of the Member States of the World Health Assembly, in their voting later this month, wish to promote a lucrative but rather amoral business strategy, or the interests of their people.

Author

  • David Bell

    David Bell, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is a public health physician and biotech consultant in global health. He is a former medical officer and scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), Programme Head for malaria and febrile diseases at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, Switzerland, and Director of Global Health Technologies at Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund in Bellevue, WA, USA.

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Brownstone Institute

Medical Elites’ Disgrace Over Ivermectin

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY David GortlerDAVID GORTLER 

In the wake of the FDA settling a lawsuit brought against it for wantonly and aggressively smearing ivermectin, the agency has deleted its postings. That’s good, but we shouldn’t forget how egregiously it mischaracterized the drug, ignored copious evidence in its favor, and portrayed its proponents as dangerous crackpots.

About 30 months ago, America’s FDA was publishing articles with headlines like this: “Should I take ivermectin to treat COVID?” Answer: No. The agency also told Americans not to use ivermectin to prevent Covid. Then, in what became known as its infamous “horse tweet,” the FDA even patronizingly told Americans: “Seriously, y’all. stop it.

Prescribers who advocated for alternate treatments like ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine were mocked online by America’s “trusted journalists” as being part of a “right-wing conspiracy” and labeled “hucksters.” Those who didn’t demure to the Covid mRNA or other Big Pharma treatment narratives were banned, fired, and spoken harshly about around the world and into the reaches of the stratosphere in what seemed like coordinated messaging.

Many clinicians lost their jobs – at best. At worst, their reputations, practices, finances, and careers were shattered. If that was not bad enough, after losing their jobs, state medical and pharmacy boards initiated legal proceedings against their licensure, singling out their “off-label” Covid treatments, despite other off-label treatments being a near-ubiquitous component of pharmacy and medical practice.

A screenshot of a social media post Description automatically generated

Within days of FDA’s initial postings above, the American Pharmacist’s Association (APhA) the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP), and the American Medical Association (AMA) all collaborated to release a joint press release condemning doctors who prescribed ivermectin to treat Covid, but it appears that these organizations, instead of actually performing independent analysis of primary literature data, blindly regurgitated FDA, CDC, and NIH plus other government and Big Pharma talking points “strongly opposing” ivermectin use.

For generations and especially during the Covid pandemic, professionals depended on these “elite” medical groups. Some of them have existed for around 170 years and have around $150 million to $1.2 billion in assets, so they clearly had the history, personnel, and wherewithal to objectively examine published data. Even beyond that, the AMA has several floors in a skyscraper in Chicago and the APhA’s Constitution Avenue’s “landmark headquarters” is so luxuriant that it is advertised and utilized as a wedding venue.

Of course, that extravagance was paid for by millions of pharmacists, physicians, and benefactors who expected these organizations to act as a checksum and ensure excellent clinical practice standards. These medical organizations have a duty to honor their histories, responsibilities, and ethical duties to better the human condition through verified scientific evidence. Instead, they appeared to outrageously abandon their obligations from their lofty positions of respect, comfort, money, and power.

APhA, ASHP, and AMA Clinical Declarations Now Indefensible:

On March 22, the FDA rightly acquiesced and agreed to remove their anti-ivermectin postings due to 1) a lawsuit filed against them and 2) the impossible task of having to defend themselves with an overwhelming amount of data disagreeing with not only dispensing medical recommendations, but the published data backing their Covid-19 use (e.g., see below).

With that gone, the APhA, ASHP, and AMA assertions suddenly have no leg upon which to stand.

Several non-FDA links within their press releases have (unsurprisingly) also quietly vanished with no explanation. NIH references are slated to be shut down, on top of multiple FDA and CDC links already no longer working.

Ivermectin Mechanism of Action, History and Evidence:

The broad antiviral mechanism of action of ivermectin is complicated and may partially involve blocking the uptake of viral proteins, but the bottom line is that it has been shown to yield positive results in a variety of published results for Covid-19. Had APhA, ASHP, and AMA pharmacists and physicians independently examined the data, (as I, just one drug-safety analyst without fancy headquarters, have done) rather than simply parroting now-deleted narratives of others, they would have learned that ivermectin works as an antiviral.

It has an extensively proven track record of being not just safe – but astonishingly safe for a variety of viral diseases. This is not breaking or fringe science; it has been known for years. Ivermectin is such a safe and effective drug that back in 2015 it was the first drug for infectious disease associated with a Nobel Prize in 60 years.

While I have stacks of electronic files and printed materials, dog-eared and food/drink-stained, there is a most elegantly presented meta-analysis website designed by some brainy and web-savvy scientists detailing over 100 studies from over 1,000 different scientists, involving over 140,000 patients in 29 countries describing the benefit and safety of ivermectin for Covid-19 treatment. It actually appears to be more extensive than Cochrane’s outdated review of ivermectin which only examined 14 trials – and excluded seven of them from consideration.

A close-up of a blue sign Description automatically generated

According to these data, consisting of smaller international publications that include real-world findings and small observational studies, ivermectin shows a statistically significant lower Covid-19 risk as detailed in the image above.

The less-positive findings associated with late treatment/viral clearance/hospitalization data cohort were associated with delayed administration. That is because any late-state use of antiviral pharmacology tends to be ineffective after hundreds of millions of viral replications have taken place – whether it’s cold sores, influenza, AIDS, or Covid-19.

ASHP, APhA, and AMA Press Releases Contradict Available Data and Clinical Practice Standards:

When the FDA scolded Americans not to use ivermectin for Covid-19, on April 25, 2021, there were 43 different published manuscripts showing its potential benefit. Around three months later, on August 21, the FDA released its infamous horse/cow tweet which implied that ivermectin was only for animals, not humans. This “doubling down” occurred as an additional 20 studies had subsequently been written detailing additional benefits for Covid-19. See the timeline below:

In the picture shown above, the BLUE circles shown are studies which detail positive ivermectin study findings and the RED circles are negative. Negative data exists, but the positive ivermectin findings outnumber them both in study quantity and study size (illustrated by the circle sizes), according to meta analysis data published at: c19ivm.org

Multiple APhA/ASHP/AMA statements ignored published scientific and clinical evidence. Specifically, statements declaring the: “Use of ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 has been demonstrated to be harmful to patients” (bold emphasis theirs) are objectively inaccurate. I do not know on what basis those statements were made. The recommendation to healthcare professionals to …counsel patients against use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19, including emphasizing the potentially toxic effects of this drug” represents a departure from pharmacist and physician practice standards.

The absurdity of the latter statement is quite outrageous. Pharmacists and physicians know that all drugs have “…potentially toxic effects” so if they applied the standard of “emphasizing potentially toxic effects” while discussing every prescribed medication, few if any patients would ever take any of their medications. The APhA/ASHP/AMA discriminatory hostility towards ivermectin was not only clinically unjustified and irresponsible; it was – as far as I know – without precedent.

These anti-ivermectin talking points also benefited new Big Pharma product advancement including the rebounding, overpriced taxpayer-funded boondoggle of Paxlovid and Remdesivir, such a “safe and effective” drug that hospitals had to be heavily incentivized (i.e., bribed) to entice nurses, physicians, and hospital administrators to promote its use with a staggering 20% “bonus” on the entire hospital bill paid by our federal government. Remdesivir quickly earned the sardonic nickname of “run-death-is-near” by American Frontline Nurses and others, due to serious questions about its clinical benefit.

Why were federal agencies’ and professional organizations’ talking points against ivermectin not backed by independent, original APhA/ASHP/AMA data examinations? That question needs to be thoroughly probed with regard to potential regulatory capture within these groups.

Both then and now, those FDA webpages, postings, and tweets were not just biased. They were irresponsible in their denigrating ivermectin as an off-label treatment, which is why they are now gone.

The question is, who was worse? The FDA for overstepping its congressional authority in not just making medical recommendations, but making recommendations ignoring data, or the servile “independent” elite professional organizations exuberantly echoing a narrative?

Prescient or not, here is an excerpt of the expert panel congressional testimony to the Covid Select House Oversight Committee, explaining the FDA’s disparaging ivermectin versus promoting mRNA injections using an automobile analogy, delivered just one day prior to the FDA’s yielding to physicians’ lawsuit to remove its postings denigrating ivermectin:

Heritage Foundation on X: ““To the countries, physicians, & pharmacists who prescribed ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, I would like to tell you right now, you were right.” Dr. Gortler obliterated the “science” Americans were expected to believe about COVID treatments and the COVID vaccine in Congress… https://t.co/UJInVqdSdb” / X (twitter.com)

Despite FDA Settlement and Data Abundance, the Press is Still Anti-Ivermectin

Even after the FDA’s about-face, on March 26, 2024, a Los Angeles Times journalist published a column calling the removal of FDA tweets “groundless” unilaterally declaring ivermectin is still “conclusively shown to be useless against COVID-19,” comparing ivermectin to “snake oil,” and describing those who advocate for it as “purveyors of useless but lucrative nostrums” …whatever that means. (Regarding the ‘lucrative’ claim, it is worth noting that since ivermectin is generic and inexpensively available, it is not ‘lucrative’ to anyone.) It also referenced ivermectin lacking “scientific validation,” even though the above-cited data abundantly indicates otherwise.

Regarding the FDA’s choice to settle its lawsuit disparaging ivermectin, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research leadership isn’t “shooting itself in the foot” as the Times says. It seems that the FDA is indirectly attempting to prevent further embarrassment likely because it now realizes that its ivermectin assertions were wrong and outdated with every passing day. But where does that leave the APhA, ASHP, or AMA who heavily relied on these now deleted FDA links in their press releases?

The APhA, ASHP, AMA Response to the FDA’s Removal of Postings Used in Press Releases? An Embarrassing Silence:

Over a month later, and as of this publication date, none of these organizations have a single thing to say about their previous press releases quoting the now-removed FDA articles and tweets. In fact, here is an indication of their concerns: one week after the FDA acquiesced to remove its postings in ivermectin, APhA’s newly elected speaker chair and pharmacist Mary Klein is “happy danc[ing]” and giving her official acceptance speech wearing Mickey Mouse ears. ASHP’s (A/K/A “#MedicationExperts”) still shows its official page with clinicians wearing ineffective, unnecessary surgical masks despite the pandemic having ended well over a year ago and Cochrane reviews indicating that this sort of masking is almost certainly ineffective. AMA officials are making multiple posts on transgender issues and declaring climate change a public health crisis, – all while fully ignoring its impactful, incorrect, inappropriate statements on ivermectin.

Take a look:

The APhA, ASHP, and AMA have remained conspicuously silent on this topic while focusing their newsfeeds on everything but. To this day, their press releases remain online, with multiple dead links to government agencies. In blindly backing incorrect narratives pointing to removed web pages, they are now all alone in their ivermectin declarations.

Bottom line: ivermectin was and is safe, and more than likely effective for Covid when timed and dosed correctly, and under medical supervision, despite what was declared by organizations and federal officials. In fact, ivermectin’s general antiviral activity might even be helpful for bird flu (avian influenza) in animals and humans, in lieu of another novel adverse-event-ridden “warp speed” mRNA “vaccine” with an endless boondoggle of boosters.

The past and current record on ivermectin needs to be set straight. We know there is an important (but untransparent) list of who is responsible for misrepresenting published data, but will anyone be held accountable?

DISCLAIMER:  Do NOT discontinue or initiate taking ANY drug without first discussing it with a pharmacist or physician you know and trust. 

Author

  • David Gortler

    Dr. David Gortler, a 2023 Brownstone Fellow, is a pharmacologist, pharmacist, research scientist and a former member of the FDA Senior Executive Leadership Team who served as senior advisor to the FDA Commissioner on matters of: FDA regulatory affairs, drug safety and FDA science policy. He is a former Yale University and Georgetown University didactic professor of pharmacology and biotechnology, with over a decade of academic pedagogy and bench research, as part of his nearly two decades of experience in drug development. He also serves as a scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center

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