Exploring Human Potential

Pfizer CEO Should Distance Himself From Trump.

Posted on | October 1, 2020 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

The executive team on the 18th floor at 42nd and 2nd Avenue had to be shifting in their seats a bit on Tuesday night as they heard the President of the United States assure the American public that Pfizer will very soon (maybe even in October) come to the rescue with a miraculous Covid-19 vaccine.

It’s been a heady two months for Pfizer’s new CEO, Albert Bourla. A veterinarian from Greece who spent 27 years working his way up the corporate ladder, he’s in the middle of a barnyard mess that is not of his making.

Two months ago, he teamed up with Germany-based BioNTech and landed a $1.95 billion deal with the US government. That contract is contingent on him finding a safe and effective vaccine and can deliver 100 million doses as promised (with 500 million more to follow).

With such happy news, why is Mr. Bourla increasingly sweating under the Primetime spotlight?

It’s likely because of the company he’s been forced to keep. As Trump former henchman Michael Cohen warned Congress on February 27, 2019. “I did the same thing that you’re doing now” and you will eventually “suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”

Increasingly Bourla finds himself out on the limb – a situation that became more tenuous during this week’s debate. First, Pfizer is some distance (months not days) away from completing phase three studies which have at least as good a chance of failing as succeeding. Second, if the vaccine is submitted for approval, it will have to survive a fully transparent and very public FDA review. Third, since Trump is a chronic liar who has displaced real science experts, it’s unlikely that the public will respond with open-armed trust even with an approval.

Bourla and the other PhRMA execs signaled as much when they sent out a joint release in September pledging not to cut corners on safety. Why did Bourla feel this was necessary? He told the Washington Post, “People are confused. Right now, they don’t know who to believe and what to believe. And we felt that, as this debate was peaking, we had to go out and say that we are going to stand with science. And we had to make it clear that if there are pressures, we are going to honor our legacy, and we are going to do whatever it takes to deliver a product that is safe and effective.”

He may not want to hit that “Pfizer’s legacy” too hard. As recounted in “Code Blue: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex”, the Pfizer “rap sheet” over six decades, from controversial experiments on children with meningitis in Nigeria to a $2.3 billion fine for massive over-marketing, is not exactly the kind of “legacy” worth defending in public.

The point being for Bourla, you’ve been warned. Aggressively maintain your distance from Trump, and listen to the advice of your fellow Greek, Aristotle, who said, “Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”


2 Responses to “Pfizer CEO Should Distance Himself From Trump.”

  1. Chuck fahey
    October 1st, 2020 @ 10:09 am

    Thanks Mike. Your insights are great.. hope the family is well we are going O K on the heights.

  2. Mike Magee
    October 1st, 2020 @ 10:38 am

    Thanks, Chuck. I’m doing an online lecture – “Courageous Women in Public Health” on December 2nd for LeMoyne. Hope you’ll tune in. Best, Mike

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