A recent book by former Food and Drug Administration Director Scott Gottlieb explains why the Trump Administration went around the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to get more accurate COVID-19 hospital patient data during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The version of events in Gottlieb’s book, Uncontrolled Spread, differs sharply from an investigative report published one year ago in Science entitled “Undermining CDC,” notes economist Alex Tabarrok, cohost of the Marginal Revolution blog . in a review.
Tabarrok writes that the author of the Science article, Charles Pillar, portrayed Ambassador-at-Large, Deborah Birx, M.D., the COVID-19 coordinator at the time, as “an arrogant Trump Tool who interfered with the great CDC.” Birx was seeking more accurate, daily hospital patient data instead of the agency’s guesses based on modeling and sought help from the private sector.
According to Gottlieb’s book, there was a practical reason to do so. There was a limited supply of the COVID-19 treatment drug remdesivir, and the Trump administration wanted to send it where it was needed most. Birx used a private contractor, Teletracking Technologies Inc, a hospital data management company to collect the information.
“Ambassador Birx and [HHS] Secretary Azar decided to recreate that structure outside the agency. They had concluded that getting the CDC to change its own scheme, and abandon its historical approach to modeling these data, would have been too hard,” wrote Gottlieb.
Tabarrok says Gottlieb’s version seems to strike closer to the truth. “Why? Notice that on most of the facts the stories agree. Gottlieb says the CDC refused to work with the HHS data and took their ball and went home,” wrote Tabarrok.
“The Piller story has CDC people sobbing, angry, and saying ‘ I refuse to do this .’ Check. What differs is the interpretation and everything in Piller’s story is infected by an anti-Trump perspective. I don’t blame Piller for being anti-Trump, but Trump plays no role in the story he just hovers in the background like a bogeyman.”
The account goes to show how regulation gets in the way of good government, says John C. Goodman, president of The Goodman Institute and co-publisher of Health Care News.
“Birx, Azar, and even Trump himself had the good sense to side-step a stuck-in-the-mud bureaucracy and respond quickly to the health threat of our lifetime,” said Goodman. “Almost every good thing that happened in our response to COVID-19 was due to Trump deregulation.
“Because of the deregulation of vaccine production, 180,000 lives were saved. Because of deregulation of telemedicine, seniors could communicate with doctors from their homes,” said Goodman. “By side-stepping the CDC bureaucracy, the administration saved additional lives.”
AnneMarie Schieber (email@example.com.) is the managing editor of Health Care News.