Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kavanaugh’s Rage and Self-Pity Should Be Enough to Disqualify His Nomination to the United States Supreme Court


Regardless of the FBI investigation of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault, do we want a Supreme Court Justice who lacks self-control, integrity, and impartiality but not hubris; a person who is also entitled, unprincipled, noncommittal, vitriolic, vindictive, conspiratorial, mendacious, fractious, temperamental and self-pitying? 

Kavanaugh’s rage is surely commensurate with his sense of entitlement, his stunted emotional development; his blustering conspiratorial theories; his displacement; his irrelevant, repetition of his qualifications; his appeal to pity and ridicule; his selected instances; his begging the question; his purposeful diversions; and his inconsequential rationalizations—Glen Brown

“Beyond whatever was self-serving and pure lies in Kavanaugh's testimony, what we saw—the operatic rage, the contempt, the tears, the fury, the hauteur, the blinking anxiety—was the expression of one of the experiences that I tried to identify in my book as being at the heart of conservatism: not just loss, but felt loss. And not just ambient sorrow but a militant avowal of desired recovery. 

“When conservatism is in its ascendancy, it is able to connect that particular feeling of loss, the loss of one social class, to a more universal constituency. When it is in retreat, it has a much more difficult time making that sense of loss speak across the population, of making it travel far and wide. In the coming weeks and months, we'll see which of the two situations we're in... 

All the things that repelled us—the rage, the contempt, the tears—were exactly what his constituency identified with. Because it was expressing something quite real: that he is facing a genuine threat to his position, not just on the Supreme Court but as a sexual harasser, as a man who has the right to control women, to expect women to be his playthings, as an elite man who did all the right things that come with his class privilege (both going to Yale and Yale Law School, working his way up the judicial ladder, and the homo-social male bonding of treating women with contempt), and he is now facing the prospect of losing it all. 

Not losing his judgeship, obviously, but losing the trajectory of power that he was on. I think to his constituency those things are very real—and if the left is doing its job, his constituency isn't wrong to feel these things are losses. Because they are losses. That doesn't mean the losses aren't justified! They are justified. But for people with privilege and power, justice and equity and fairness are genuine constraints and losses”—Corey Robin

“…[Kavanaugh] is not suited to a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Because of his self-pity and rage. Because of the way he shredded the idea that he can be an impartial arbiter on the high court when he accused Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee of seeking ‘revenge on the behalf of the Clintons’ and ‘left-wing opposition groups.’

“Because of the insulting way he spoke to Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar when she asked whether he ever drank so much he could not remember what happened. (‘You're talking about a blackout,’ he said in a nasty tone. ‘I don't know. Have you?).

“Because he refused to give a straight answer about whether he would support an FBI investigation into Ford's charges. Because he interrupted Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal who was in the middle of asking a question, then had the cluelessness to say, ‘Let me finish.’

“Kavanaugh's anger may be understandable in a man who claims — hyperbolically — that his life and family have been ‘destroyed’ by what he says are false allegations of sexual assault. But they are hardly what we deserve or expect in a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has so much control over Americans' lives, especially women's…
“It was clear that Kavanaugh's Judiciary Committee supporters don't particularly care whether or not he assaulted Ford all those years ago at a high school party. And they knew — all 11 men — that they could not trust themselves to come off as caring, so they hired Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor, whose plodding questions seemed to infuriate them. They wanted fireworks. She was a wet blanket.

“Their pent-up rage exploded after Ford finished her testimony. They sidelined Mitchell, and turned their wrath on Democrats, who were accused of withholding information in order to delay the confirmation until after the midterm elections, when Democrats have a fighting chance of gaining the majority in the Senate and could scuttle Kavanaugh's nomination.

“In tones verging on hysteria, they railed about the timing of the allegations (as if there is a good time to step forward alleging you've been attacked by a Supreme Court nominee). I've never seen a theatrical outburst like Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's display of self-righteous anger, sparked by Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin's simple assertion that if Kavanaugh truly cared about clearing his good name, he should want to have the FBI investigate Ford's claims. ‘God help anyone else that gets nominated,’ Graham said, forgetting that Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed last year with barely a ripple.

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said to Democrats on the panel: ‘What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020. You’ve said that, not me.’ Sen. Orrin G. Hatch's outraged voice broke as he scornfully dismissed the idea that anyone would care what had happened in high school. And yet, Ford had very specifically discussed the ‘anxiety, phobia and PTSD-like symptoms’ that she had felt, intensely, in the first four years after the assault, and intermittently thereafter. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, forgetting his recitation of ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ during a Senate filibuster, called it ‘one of the most shameful events in the history of the United States Senate.’

“Again and again, Kavanaugh, 53, was described by his supporters as a victim — not of Ford, because of course, it's no longer acceptable to publicly attack a victim of sexual assault — but of Democrats. Ford, they said, was a victim, too. Of Democrats. Just as I believed Anita Hill in 1991, I believe Christine Blasey Ford. I wouldn't put Kavanaugh in jail for what he did when he was 17, but I sure as hell wouldn't put him on the Supreme Court” (Do we really want a man consumed with rage, self-pity and hate on the Supreme Court? by Robin Abcarian).

Friday, September 28, 2018

Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh: "A Study in Contrasts"

“What a study in contrasts: Where Christine Blasey Ford was calm and dignified, Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent; where she was eager to respond fully to every questioner and kept worrying whether she was being ‘helpful’ enough, he was openly contemptuous of several senators; most important, where she was credible and unshakable at every point in her testimony, he was at some points evasive, and some of his answers strained credulity.

“Indeed, Dr. Blasey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday was devastating. With the eyes of the nation on her, Dr. Blasey recounted an appalling trauma. When she was 15 years old, she said, she was sexually assaulted by Judge Kavanaugh, then a 17-year-old student at a nearby high school and now President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

“Her description of the attack, which she said occurred in a suburban Maryland home on a summer night in 1982, was gut-wrenchingly specific. She said Judge Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, both of whom she described as very drunk, locked her in a second-floor room of a private home. She said Kavanaugh jumped on top of her, groped her, tried to remove her clothes and put his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming. She said she feared he might accidentally kill her. ‘The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense,’ she said, was her strongest memory.

“Judge Kavanaugh, when it was his turn, was not laughing. He was yelling. He spent more than half an hour raging against Senate Democrats and the ‘Left’ for ‘totally and permanently’ destroying his name, his career, his family, his life. He called his confirmation process a ‘national disgrace.’ ‘You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit,’ Judge Kavanaugh said, sounding like someone who suddenly doubted his confirmation to the Supreme Court — an outcome that seemed preordained only a couple of weeks ago.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s defiant fury might be understandable coming from someone who believes himself innocent of the grotesque charges he’s facing. Yet it was also evidence of an unsettling temperament in a man trying to persuade the nation of his judicial demeanor.

“We share the sorrow of every sensible American who feels stricken at the partisan spectacle playing out in Washington. Judge Kavanaugh was doubtless — and lamentably — correct in predicting that after this confirmation fight, however it ends, the bitterness is only likely to grow. As he put it in his testimony, ‘What goes around, comes around,’ in the partisan vortex that has been intensifying in Washington for decades now. His open contempt for the Democrats on the committee also raised further questions about his own fair-mindedness, and it served as a reminder of his decades as a Republican warrior who would take no prisoners.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s biggest problem was not his demeanor but his credibility, which has been called in question on multiple issues for more than a decade, and has been an issue again throughout his Supreme Court confirmation process.

“On Thursday, he gave misleading answers to questions about seemingly small matters — sharpening doubts about his honesty about far more significant ones. He gave coy answers when pressed about what was clearly a sexual innuendo in his high-school yearbook. He insisted over and over that others Dr. Blasey named as attending the gathering had ‘said it didn’t happen,’ when in fact at least two of them have said only that they don’t recall it — and one of them told a reporter that she believes Dr. Blasey.

“Judge Kavanaugh clumsily dodged a number of times when senators asked him about his drinking habits. When Senator Amy Klobuchar gently pressed him about whether he’d ever blacked out from drinking, he at first wouldn’t reply directly. ‘I don’t know, have you?’ he replied — a condescending and dismissive response to the legitimate exercise of a senator’s duty of advice and consent. (Later, after a break in the hearing, he apologized).

“Judge Kavanaugh gave categorical denials a number of times, including, at other points, that he’d ever blacked out from too much drinking. Given numerous reports now of his heavy drinking in college, such a blanket denial is hard to believe.

“In contrast, Dr. Blasey bolstered her credibility not only by describing in harrowing detail what she did remember, but by being honest about what she didn’t — like the exact date of the gathering, or the address of the house where it occurred. As she pointed out, the precise details of a trauma get burned into the brain and stay there long after less relevant details fade away.

“She was also honest about her ambivalence in coming forward. ‘I am terrified,’ she told the senators in her opening remarks. And then there’s the fact that she gains nothing by coming forward. She is in hiding now with her family in the face of death threats.

“Perhaps the most maddening part of Thursday’s hearing was the cowardice of the committee’s 11 Republicans, all of them men, and none of them, apparently, capable of asking Dr. Blasey a single question. They farmed that task out to a sex-crimes prosecutor named Rachel Mitchell, who tried unsuccessfully in five-minute increments to poke holes in Dr. Blasey’s story” (NY Times Editorial: Why Brett Kavanaugh Wasn’t Believable and Why Christine Blasey Ford Was).

Thursday, September 27, 2018

“Someone must have been telling lies about [Brett] K., for without having done anything wrong he was...”-Franz Kafka

Entitled, Evasive, Emotional, Anxious, Vitriolic, 
Conspiratorial, Passive-Aggressive, Fallacious, Embarrassing, Squirming, Sniveling, Raging, 
Self-Pitying, Bullying, Filibustering, and Prevaricating. 

Integrity and Fortitude

                                             Christine Blasey Ford 

“Instead of showing remorse and sympathy for the victims of his transgressions, [Kavanaugh] became righteous. Shameful. Dangerous”—Utz Mcknight

“Woke up too early in the morning thinking about the book I am writing, as we do. But my thoughts drifted to the Kavanaugh job interview for Supreme Court justice and how he was trying to make his case to a public that can't directly answer back.

“One thing struck me as dangerously disingenuous, the claim to virginity and the idea that he couldn't have desired to assault women because implicitly at the time he valued the sanctity of marriage and his own sexual innocence too highly.

“The idea that abstinence education and his own commitment as a young man to being a virgin would protect women by either absolving him of, or removing for him, the desire to have sex with women is not just wrong, but dangerous. I don't need to go into why this is so for those of you here.

“I want to be clear about this, however. That Kavanaugh referenced this aspect of his life as a defense against the claims of sexual assault means he is signaling his commitment to a very conservative far right evangelical politics regarding gender and sexuality.

“This isn't someone who thinks contraception should be available before marriage, or that health care employment benefits should include the cost of birth control. This is an interview for a job that would, however, have his ideas about sex, marriage, and women as important qualifiers for his suitability for the position. There is also the question of how he views his faith in relation to the law.

“I wonder how he perceives the women in his life, but everything he signaled in his interview is that he is just like Mike Pence. This isn't to criticize Kavanaugh as an individual, he can have whatever view of women, sexual intimacy, and health care provision he wants as a private citizen.

“But this is an interview for a job as Supreme Court Justice of the United States. Even if you agree with his views on faith and personal service, given that he was willing to make a case for his suitability for the position on the basis of a commitment to this conservative religion faith should give you pause and consider what the office of Supreme Court Justice requires.

“He is claiming that these values are the qualifications that we should consider when confirming him. He is offering up the claim that we should consider his attestation of the strength of his faith when young as proof that not only is he innocent, his word and values set against those of his accusers who are of course not in the room as he says this, but that he will faithfully continue to demonstrate these values and commitments when a Supreme Court Justice. These are the words of a politician and not those of a Supreme Court Justice.

“This is a job interview for public service as a Justice, not someone standing in front of the congregation in a church discussing their constancy and faith as a personal struggle. No matter your personal views and values, someone who is willing to claim—no argue—in public that his religious views make him the best candidate as a Justice isn't someone we should choose for the position.

“Not unless we want to change that part of the Constitution that states that we should have the freedom to choose our individual faith and religion. He is using his faith as a weapon, and thinks that to do so is not only appropriate with regard to claims made against him personally of sexual assault, but qualifying for the appointment to the highest Court in the land.

“I keep coming back this morning to the words of a student who was in my office years ago describing her survival as a victim of sexual assault when she was a first year student, ‘I was saving myself for marriage, and I woke up in this man's bed who I didn't know, and couldn't remember how I got there... How do I find out now my sense of who I want to be? He took that from me.’

“This man who was drinking and partying as a high school student, writing about sexual conquest in his yearbook, and continued partying as a college student, and no doubt also as a lawyer and judge, is lying and doing so in public on his faith. Instead of showing remorse and sympathy for the victims of his transgressions, he became righteous. Shameful. Dangerous”—Utz Mcknight. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hairy Chests

“She asks me why, 

I'm just a hairy guy.

I'm hairy noon 

and night, 

hair that's a fright.

I'm hairy high and low. 

Don't ask me why, don't know.

It's not for lack of bread, 

like the Grateful Dead…” 

Hairy chests can be a source of insecurity for some men, but it’s perfectly natural and may even convey some health benefits. Whether your body’s specific cocktail of genes and androgens has given you a baby-smooth body or the chest of an abominable beach Yeti, here’s what science has to say about your chest hair:

“It’s Normal to Have Uneven Chest Hair: Chest hair was categorized in 15 unique patterns spanning over four separate areas of the chest in 1965, based on a study of 1,400 men ages 17 to 71. Sternal, infraclavicular (below the collarbone), pectoral, and circumareolar (areola) hair make up the four areas where chest hair grows, with a majority of it falling on the pecs and sternum. The most common pattern was the pecto-sterno-infraclavicular pattern, where the breast, sternum, and end of the clavicle are hairy. This early research also established that it was common for men to have asymmetrical chest hair that followed different patterns on each side.
“In a word—whatever odd chest hair you have, you’re probably not alone. Despite the fact that testosterone levels influence chest hair, when women are at their most fertile they’re not that into it, according to a study of nearly 300 women. Researchers found that more fertile women opted for men with less chest hair, and postmenopausal women preferred more chest hair.
“So for men who look like they’re always wearing sweaters, enjoy your one-way ticket to Cougartown. But for the hairy father who’s not ready to expand his family further, consider chest hair a natural second form of birth control.
“It Probably Matches Your Father-in-Law’s Chest Hair: Oddly, studies suggest your chest hair might resemble that of your father-in-law. Researchers believe that women’s preferences could be heritable from their mothers, or that is a result of sexual imprinting. That is, women select men who remind them of their fathers—in chest hair pattern, too. Regardless, men may not want to be shirtless with their in-laws. They may recognize some uncomfortable commonalities.
“Chest Hair Might Mean You’re More Intelligent: The hairier the chest, the smarter the man, at least according to one survey that found nearly half of medical students were considered ‘very hairy’ compared to 10 percent of the general population.
“Although the research is dated, another study found that a majority of Mensa members had thick chest hair as well. It’s not completely clear why hairy men seem to be more intelligent on the whole, and it’s entirely possible that this is a convenient coincidence—or that hairy men choose to study, instead of attending pool parties.
It Could Always Be Worse: Even the hairiest men at the beach could’ve been hairier without the help of evolution, scientists suspect. Although early hominids were covered in body hair as a way to keep warm, about three million years ago that fur stopped serving that purpose and primarily put them at risk of overheating. Thanks to natural selection, humans shed the excess hair and evolved to sweat instead.
“So no matter how hairy you are, it could always be worse—you could always have inherited the chest of Australopithecus” (What’s Great About Having a Hairy Chest According to Science by Lauren Vinopal).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Left-of-Center Political Bias at Colleges and Universities by Cass R. Sunstein

“…In recent years, concern has grown over what many people see as a left-of-center political bias at colleges and universities. A few months ago, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017. The findings are eye-popping (even if they do not come as a great surprise to many people in academia).
“Democrats dominate most fields. In religion, Langbert’s survey found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1. In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1. In political science, it is 8 to 1. The gap is narrower in science and engineering. In physics, economics and mathematics, the ratio is about 6 to 1. In chemistry, it is 5 to 1, and in engineering, it is just 1.6 to 1. Still, Lambert found no field in which Republicans are more numerous than Democrats.
“True, these figures do not include the many professors who do not have a political affiliation, either because they are not registered at all or because they have not declared themselves as Democrats or Republicans. And, true, the ratios vary dramatically across colleges…
“But despite the variability, none of the 51 colleges had more Republicans than Democrats. According to the survey, over a third of them had no Republicans at all. For two reasons, these numbers, and others like them, are genuinely disturbing.
“The first involves potential discrimination on the part of educational institutions. Some departments might be disinclined to hire potential faculty members based on their political convictions.
“Such discrimination might take the form of unconscious devaluation of people whose views do not fit with the dominant perspective. For example, young historians who cast Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in a terrible light might not get a lot of job offers. And talented people might not pursue academic careers at all, because they expect that their potential professors will not appreciate their work.
“The second reason is that students are less likely to get a good education, and faculty members are likely to learn less from one another, if there is a prevailing political orthodoxy. Students and faculty might end up in a kind of information cocoon. If a political science department consists of 24 Democrats and two Republicans, we have reason to doubt that students will be exposed to an adequate range of views.
“It is true that in some fields, political affiliations do not matter. In chemistry, math, physics and engineering, students should not care about the party affiliations of their professors. Sure, it’s conceivable that Democratic chemistry professors want to hire fellow Democrats. But that would be surprising. In all likelihood, they are looking for good chemistry professors.
“In fields of this kind, there is no reason to worry that political homogeneity will disserve students or undermine the exchange of ideas. If students are learning about special relativity or the physics of nuclei, partisan affiliations ought not to be relevant.
“The real problems arise in subjects like history, political science, philosophy and psychology, where the professor’s political perspective might well make a difference. (The same is true of law.) If academic hiring is skewed along ideological lines, the march toward uniformity might be self-reinforcing. Prospective professors will have an incentive to adopt the prevailing orthodoxy (or to speak and write as if they do).
“It is far too simple, of course, to say that professors of history, political science, philosophy and the like should ‘look like America’ in political terms. What matters is that they are experts in their fields, able to convey what they know. In faculty hiring, affirmative action for those with conservative political positions is not likely to serve anyone well.
“Nonetheless, the current numbers make two points unmistakably clear. First, those who teach in departments lacking ideological diversity have an obligation to offer competing views and to present them fairly and with respect. A political philosopher who leans left should be willing and able to ask students to think about the force of the argument for free markets, even if they produce a lot of inequality.
“Second, those who run departments lacking ideological diversity have an obligation to find people who will represent competing views — visiting speakers, visiting professors and new hires. Faculties need not be expected to mirror their societies, but students and teachers ought not live in information cocoons.
“The 19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill put it well: ‘It is hardly possible to overrate the value ... of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.’”

For the entire article, click here. 
Cass Sunstein, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, is a Harvard law professor and the author of "Simpler: The Future of Government." He previously taught at the University of Chicago.


In my classroom, students learn that I am passionate about searching for truth; that there exists a vast chasm between knowledge and belief; that truths are often elusive and relative; that nearly all beliefs are fallible and provisional, and that both truth and belief require unrelenting analysis and proof of argument. 

During classroom discussions, I often posit controversial and contrary ideas to spur my students to inquiry and debate, without telling them what to think. In doing so, I hope to challenge and encourage each one of them to devote the time and energy necessary to think these matters through.

With a fundamental commitment to human rights, founded on philosophical principles and ideals, I challenge my students—through the study of ethics and their own writing—to pursue a life based on logic, reason, critical thinking, compassion, empathy, humility, integrity, dignity, fairness, political and social justice, responsibility and mutual respect, and life-long learning. 

Works, both classic and modern, are presented to explore concepts such as morality, justice, good and evil, legitimate rights, freedom of choice, ethical theory, and our moral responsibility towards one another and the rest of the natural world. My favorite authors reveal that we are each responsible for who we are and what we will become, and that the human experience is, consequently, complex and varied with many meanings because each one of us can create his or her future.

Moreover, in our classroom, learning is a discovery process shaped by analysis, reflection, and application. We become aware that we are all teachers and learners. My goals as a teacher are to take a student’s potentiality and to make it an actuality, to teach my students to think and investigate critically, to question unremittingly, and to discover moral purpose through meaningful discussion and action. 

Thus, my students justify what they believe with evidence and describe how they arrived at their conclusions. They distinguish between facts and opinions and between relevant and irrelevant claims. They determine the factual accuracy of their statements and learn to detect bias and fallacious reasoning commonly found in argumentation. They ask themselves why some beliefs can be exempt from empirical confirmation while other beliefs must undergo rigorous a posteriori proof.

By examining their reasons for supporting their particular opinions and questioning the efficacy of their beliefs’ practices–for there are dogmas that advocate violence, terrorism, subjugation, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ethnic cleansing, and racial and religious hatred–I want my students to confront such thinking and obstruct those who hold such viewpoints. I want my students to be dynamic and appalled by the prevalence of hypocrisy, indifference, bigotry, arrogance, incompetence, immorality, and injustice in today’s world.

These are the values at the center of my core beliefs. What I have learned about the craft of teaching is that the teacher’s character and competency have a recurring impact on a student’s life and so, as I challenge my students, I must also challenge my own beliefs through rigorous inquiry, research and meta-cognition.

Glen Brown

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pfizer's CEO's Compensation and Exorbitant Drug Costs

“As drug giant Pfizer Inc. hiked the price of dozens of drugs in 2017, it also jacked up the compensation of CEO Ian Read by 61 percent, putting his total compensation at $27.9 million, according to financial filings reported by Bloomberg.
“Pfizer’s board reportedly approved the compensation boost because they saw it as a ‘compelling incentive’ to keep Read from retiring… As part of the deal, Read has to stay on through at least next March and is barred from working with a competitor for a minimum of two years after that.
“According to Bloomberg, Read’s compensation included in part a salary of $1.96 million, a $2.6 million bonus, $13.1 million in equity awards linked to financial goals and stock price, as well as an $8 million special equity award that will vest if the company’s average stock return goes above 25 percent for 30 consecutive trading days before the end of 2022. In 2016, Read’s compensation totaled $17.3 million.
“The 61 percent raise comes after a string of separate reports noting drug price increases by Pfizer. In January, FiercePharma reported an analysis finding that Pfizer implemented 116 price hikes just between this past December 15 and January 3 of this year. The list price increases ranged from 3 percent to 9.46 percent. The analysts noted that Pfizer increased the price of 20 drugs by 9.44 percent. Those included Viagra, Pristiq, Lipitor, and Zoloft, which are available as generics, as well as Chantix.
“Additionally, Pfizer had increased the prices of 91 drugs by an average of 20 percent in just the first half of 2017, according to data first reported by Financial Times. That included two waves of price hikes, one in January and the other on June 1.
“That echoes the pattern seen in 2016, 2015, and 2014, according to a report by STAT. In June of 2016, Pfizer raised the list prices of its medicines by an average of 8.8 percent. That followed an average 10.4 percent raise in list prices in January of that year.
“In response to the price hikes reported earlier this year, a Pfizer spokesperson told FiercePharma that the company ‘takes a measured and responsible approach to pricing.’ The spokesperson added that Pfizer provides assistance programs to some eligible patients with financial hardships. However, such discount and assistance programs don't spare insurance companies from picking up larger tabs, which contributes to higher premiums and system-wide costs…" (Pfizer CEO gets 61% pay raise—to $27.9 million—as drug prices continue to climb).

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pharma exec says he had “moral requirement” to raise drug price 400%

A pharmaceutical company executive defended his company's recent 400% drug price increase, telling the Financial Times that his company had a ‘moral requirement to sell the product at the highest price.’ The head of the US Food and Drug Administration blasted the executive in a response on Twitter.

“Nirmal Mulye, founder and president of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, commented in a story Tuesday [Sept. 11] about the decision to raise the price of an antibiotic mixture called nitrofurantoin from about $500 per bottle to more than $2,300. The drug is listed by the World Health Organization as an ‘essential’ medicine for lower urinary tract infections.’I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can,’ Mulye told the Financial Times, ‘to sell the product for the highest price.’

“The Financial Times said Mulye compared his decision to increase the price to that of an art dealer who sells ‘a painting for half a billion dollars’ and said he was in ‘this business to make money.’

“According to the Financial Times, the executive defended ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli, who was once dubbed the ‘most hated man in America’ after his company raised the price of an AIDS drug by more than 5,000% in 2015. Shkreli was recently sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud due to mismanaging money at his hedge funds.

Bottom of Form
“‘I agree with Martin Shkreli that when he raised the price of his drug he was within his rights because he had to reward his shareholders,’ Mulye was quoted as saying.

“FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb issued a sharp rebuke of the CEO on Twitter shortly after the story published, saying ‘there's no moral imperative to price gouge and take advantage of patients.’

In comments to CNN on Wednesday, Mulye said he was not quoted accurately. ‘The word morality was used in the conversation, but not in the context of price increases,’ he said.I said I have to raise prices when I can -- how to get the best prices for my products, so that I can survive,’ Mulye told CNN. ‘It is about the survival of the business. It has nothing to do with morality.’ The Financial Times said Wednesday it sticks by its story.

“In his remarks to CNN, Mulye went on to say he ‘nearly went bankrupt’ twice and that he lost money after buying a plant in Ohio, which he said employs just under 100 people. ‘Is it moral for me to lose money?’ Mulye asked. ‘If I don't make money, then I can't create those jobs. And where does the money go when I make it? It goes back into research and hiring new people right here in the US.’

“He said the real villain is the ‘incompetent and corrupt’ FDA, which he said has placed regulatory burdens on the industry, leading to higher drug prices. He said he fired off an email to Gottlieb after his tweet: ‘Basically, I said in a nutshell that he does not have the necessary competence to comment on the morality of drug price increases, which is a complex subject. Honestly, Gottlieb should stay away from tweet, and he needs to stay in his office and listen to people like me and reform the agency,’ Mulye said.

“Mulye noted his drug is the generic version and less expensive than the branded version, listed at $2,800. ‘I'm being vilified for no good reason,’ he said. ‘It shows that the highest office at the FDA and the media doesn't understand how the drug pricing works.’

“The Trump administration has pledged to tackle the soaring costs of drug prices, with the president unveiling a plan in May to increase competition, reduce regulations and change incentives for players in the pharmaceutical industry. When he announced his plan, President Donald Trump slammed drug makers, health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and others for profiting off American patients. ’The drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American patients,’ Trump said.” [If Trump were serious about lowering drug prices he'd have to take on the U.S. drug manufacturers, which he hasn't, rather than blaming foreign drug manufacturers].