A pro-science ad from Pfizer: “When science wins, we all win”

April 16, 2020 • 8:30 am

You will perhaps pooh-pooh me for putting up this ad, which I saw on the news last night, but I don’t think you should. Sure, it’s produced by a “Big Pharma” company—Pfizer—but its message is still on the money. Just listen to the words and forget that, in the end, it’s advertising.

If it just makes people realize, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, when speaking to CNN, “We’re talking about a reopening that has a public health plan and an economic plan totally coordinated. Our behavior has stopped the spread of the virus. God did not stop the spread of the virus. And what we do, how we act, will dictate how that virus spreads.”

Even Big Pharma can speak the truth. Or would you prefer that they produced an ad extolling the power of religion?

64 thoughts on “A pro-science ad from Pfizer: “When science wins, we all win”

  1. Undoubtedly an extension of Max Perutz’s “In science, truth always wins.” Perhaps they credit Perutz, but I’ll check later.

    1. Yeah – no. I want to think that whomever wrote this were well aware of Perutz’s quote, but eh – maybe not.

      Liked the attempt of the narrator to remind the listeners about Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

  2. That’s a helluva lot better than that abominable Bayer ad that has the tagline, “At Bayer, this is why we Science.”

    1. What! “Science” is now a verb?! That’s an abomination. Watch Pence pick up on that; he has a penchant for slipping in the weirdest most unfortunate language that he thinks makes him seem au courant and so intelligent. Stupid is all I hear. But I’ll save those for the next post of “Words and phrases I hate.”

      1. yes you are right. here is one of my most hated: “passed away” instead of “died”. As if we just sorta floated around for awhile- on our way to heaven, perhaps? people cannot accept the finality of death. Yes, it is all a mystery but evading the truth of it is
        evasive-even cowardice.

        1. I missed that or else saw it but was mentally swamped by the deluge of odious and awkward words and phrases. Must go back and find the entry.

  3. I also saw this commercial yesterday and thought, very good. Of course it is opposite
    to our great leader but nothing new there. This is what the poorest leader on the planet does – declare absolute power and no responsibility.

  4. Pearls before swine, I fear. Although, the optimistic corner of my brain hopes that the combined antics of religion and politics during this time will bring some members of The Coalition of the Unthinking to realize that yes, people *are* looking at them funny and quietly turning away when they enter the room. Social approbation is an essential tool at a certain point.

      1. Seems pretty obvious to me that in both cases Ken is referring to people who reject science because of their religious and or political views. And yes, that includes a sizable chunk of Trump supporters.

    1. Maybe but I would have to see it tested and work to believe it. The claim that people who received the polio vaccine did not get influenza is also hard to believe. I remember getting all the shots when I was a small kid. All four of them over time. It did not prevent me getting the flu.

    2. Unlike the two previous respondents, I don’t dismiss this out of hand. There are many strange and quirky things having to do with viruses, including immunity. I was just listening to an absorbing interview with medical historian Frank Snowden, most recently author of “Epidemics and Society,” who spoke quite seriously about investigation into whether exposure to one virus might sometimes confer immunity to another related virus. This is an extremely informative interview https://www.kqed.org/forum/2010101877034/medical-historian-frank-snowden-on-lessons-from-past-pandemics. So who knows what promise the polio vaccine might show — that remains to be researched.

      Also,(reminder to self) not every antibody is the same; some confer immunity, some don’t.

      1. Without looking at your link, I have to point out that the idea that immunity to one virus can confer immunity to another was discovered in the 18th century. It is not new. English physician Edward Jenner realized that people infected with cowpox didn’t get smallpox. So he injected people with pus from cowpox lesions and changed the world.

          1. I wasn’t claiming that what Snowden spoke about was new info, nor was he — he was responding to a caller’s question. I was aware of Jenner but admit he slipped my mind because I tend to be a cheerleader for the flamboyantLady Mary Wortley Montagu, not a physician, who is frequently forgotten in the history of vaccination in the West prior to Jenner, though she practiced variolation, directly using smallpox virus, so not the same thing but whenever I see “Jenner,” I become defensive. As a predecessor to Jenner,I don’t think she should be given short shrift; she certainly did a lot to break down the prejudices against such procedures, even though she was all but forgotten by Jenner’s time.

    3. I’ve heard a modified version about the TB vaccine: that people who’ve had the vaccine get a much milder version of COVID-19. I have absolutely no idea where that came from, so I can’t point you anywhere sorry.

      Anecdotally, my brother and his wife both got COVID-19 very mildly, and both are vaccinated against TB. I had mild symptoms of what could’ve been COVID-19 (I wasn’t tested)and I’ve been vaccinated too. I’ve got several health conditions where I would normally be expected to suffer badly if I was infected with COVID-19.

  5. Of course, science will be the vehicle for the development of therapies and vaccines against the virus and other diseases. But, as always, the question is whether Big Pharma will make obscene profits from their discoveries, thereby denying millions the benefits of their scientific breakthroughs. For the United States, although perhaps not for much of the rest of the world, the problem has been how to distribute drugs to those without insurance or cannot afford them. For example, I take a generic statin for cholesterol. Through my insurance, a 90 day supply costs me nothing. For a person without insurance the cost is $737.89! This means that there are millions of people in danger of an avoidable heart attack because they can’t afford $3,000 a year. So, hooray for science, but not so much for drug companies and their Republican tools.

    1. It is important, I think, to distinguish the science of vaccine research (and other medical research) from the business practices allowed by government. Too many of us allow frustrations about the business/marketing side to poison how we view the science done.

      1. “Too many of us allow frustrations about the business/marketing side to poison how we view the science done.”

        I take it that anti-vaxxers don’t suffer from this particular frustration since many if not most of them are agin science from the git-go. Who needs (to be curious about or understand) science/medicine, or needs to stay home to protect others, when one is “covered with the blood” [of the Lamb]?

        “Mrs. Betty Bowers [Deven Green], America’s Best Christian”, on this topic, if I may:


        (FFRF interview with creator Andrew Bradley)


        1. Actually, I think many anti-vaxxers think they are pro-science but that the industry has bought the scientific community off. This is insane, of course.

    2. Intellectual property is *a* way to encourage innovation, but not necessarily the best way. Setting up monopolies can have brutal consequences, as you mention.

      1. I’m not going to argue the point about profits and the marketing practices of big companies, but I will say that it costs between 500 million and 1.5 billion dollars to bring a drug like the statin Historian was taking to market. Most drugs never make it, sometimes because they simply don’t work or sometimes because they do work, but there are safety issues. Other reasons include poor study design or regulatory restrictions. Some even fail because of manufacturing issues; some drugs are extremely difficult to synthesize and when you add the required safety restrictions onto their manufacture, they can be come impossible to make. The costs of all those failures are, of course, passed on.

        One recent clinical trial I was involved in was a phase one dose escalation trial involving under 150 cancer patients. It cost 43 million dollars to complete. This was one of three phase one safety and dose escalation trials involving the therapy. There remain phase 2 and phase 3 trials that must be successfully completed before the company can apply for approval. None of this accounts for the costs of the research, development, and non-clinical trials incurred before the drug ever saw a human nor the cost of making sure at every step that the program and manufacturing complies with regulatory requirements.

        You will find very few who would be willing to risk that kind of investment without patent protection. What is your alternative?

        1. I grant you that it is very expensive to bring a new drug to market. But, this raises a question. Why is it that insurance companies can negotiate with the drug companies to pay a much lower price than people with no insurance? I realize that insurance companies have a lot of leverage with the drug companies while uninsured individuals have none. Still, the drug companies are willing to accept lower fees from the insurance companies and still remain highly profitable. Does this mean that insurance companies expect to make up for what they don’t get from the insurance companies by jacking up the price for non-insured individuals? This strategy seems to be employed by doctors and hospitals that are willing to accept lower fees from insurance companies and make up the difference from the uninsured. If this is the case then the inequities in the American health care system are apparent. It also makes the case for universal health care akin to what Bernie Sanders has proposed.

          1. Oh yes, I agree. We don’t do this right at all here. In fact one of the biggest consumers of drugs in the world, Medicare Part D is not allowed by law to negotiate the cost of drugs, therapies or equipment. One (of many) reasons the same drugs cost less in other countries is precisely because their national health services CAN negotiate the price.

            We have more problems than just the fact that the government can’t negotiate for most of the drugs used in their programs (they can for Medicaid and the VA).

      2. Life is full of tradeoffs. I agree monopolies carry tradeoffs too. What should we consider as an alternative model?

    3. Doesn’t someone need to produce the medicine before we can discuss who pays and how much? I look across the pond and notice that many of the single payer systems use medicines that are a generation or two behind the US, resulting in higher pharma costs here. Eventually, the US (mostly, not exclusively) moves the bar higher and a new generation of meds are invented and we repeat the cycle. More expensive and better versus less expensive and not as good….life is full of tradeoffs.

    4. I too take a generic statin every day. I don’t have any insurance and it costs me nothing. Then again I am in the UK and I am using the NHS.

  6. In the last “hated words and phrases” post I was considering posting a new term that I truly despise. I thought this ad might contain it but I think it was a similar promotional video from Bayer:
    ” At Bayer this is why we science”

    So now, ‘science’ is a F#$@#!ing verb.

    1. Steven Pinker tw33ted something a long time ago, writing- unforgettably- “verbing weirds language”.

      I can’t remember if Pinker wrote the piece, but I will never forget that phrase.

    2. Oh also

      In the movie (presumably the book too ) The Martian, Matt Damon exclaims “I’m gonna science the shit out of this.”. SPOILER ALERT : Turns out, he grew potato plants using fertilizer/compost of a certain origin.

  7. I like the message, but not the messenger. Also, some of the writers at fivethirtyeight are using “math” as a verb, as in: COVID-19 models are hard to math. Ugh.

  8. Good ad and I agree with its message. But why the knee-jerk black hat for Big Pharma? Does it follow naturally from the notion that any for-profit enterprise is to be suspected while any non-for-profit endeavor including government is, pardon the phrase, saintly?

    1. It follows from a history of extortionist business practices that prevent access to drugs by people in need.

    2. There are lots of aspects of drug making, as driven by the profit motive, that are not well-aligned with human needs: orphan drugs, for example. I’m a capitalist but it is easy to see that pure capitalism fails in certain areas where the motivations aren’t quite right. Pharmaceuticals is one such area.

      I don’t put the blame on Big Pharma as they are just playing the capitalist game as defined by governments. Extending the duration of a drug’s profitability by tweaking a drug’s formula in order to make it a patentable “new” drug is another such problem. A drug company is practically forced to play the game as it is legal and its competitors would take advantage of it, even if they didn’t, which its shareholders would not like. Again, government needs to adjust patent rules to eliminate this distortion.

      That said, it is easy to see why people hate Big Pharma and it is not as if Big Pharma is begging the government to fix these problems. They’re too busy counting money.

      1. Wait. What is it that you have against orphan drugs? It’s a regulatory term that makes it easier to get drugs approved that work for only a few people. It seems an enlightened (for the gubmint) program. Could you explain?

        1. I didn’t mean to imply the government has no regulations for orphan drugs. I just offered it as an area where government needs to set particular rules for the industry. That said, we hear all the time that certain drugs for rare diseases are unavailable or too high priced. And what about rare diseases for which no drug has been developed? I am no expert in this area so I have no idea what rules exist or what new rules might be needed. I was just pushing back against the implication that hating Big Pharma had no rational basis.

          1. I see. Fair enough. The Orphan Drug Act (1983) was put in place to streamline regulatory requirements in order to help companies recoup development costs for drugs to treat disease for which there are few patients. In the past the classification has been used for drugs that the FDA considers of such pressing timely need that they will allow a company to submit a drug application under the OA in order to expedite the review process. This recently happened when Gilead and the FDA agreed initially to test Remsdesivir, their drug shown to be effective against Ebola, in clinical trials against SARS-nCov. Such a switch would reduce the regulatory review time from an average of more than 200 days (211, to be exact) to a short enough time to run trials ASAP. However, it would have taken an act of Congress to initiate a trial without review, so time was really pressing. In the end FDA agreed to waive some review requirements which allowed Gilead to initiate trials immediately under the “compassionate use” doctrine instead of OA.

            Good news, though highly preliminary; as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the first clinical trial on remdesivir to treat COVID-19 is done and though trial is small, the results indicate it works for those most sick with COVID-19.


              1. It was a small trial but the effect was large. We need to wait until the DB-placebo controlled study is in to be more sure of efficacy. There are several trials wrapping up now of multiple drug therapies, including one large one with Trump’s favorite anti-malarial (a small trial in France showed no benefit and some toxicity, but it was not a very robust result). We will know soon if there are drug therapies ready.

              2. I occurs to me that if a only mildly effective or temporary vaccine could be found quickly, it would buy time while the better quality ones were still in development. I also suspect that drugs to dampen the effects may be found that could also buy time. Many are being studied. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  9. I’ll repeat something I’ve said before. If you’re a “believer” that God creates everything that exists, then Coronavirus is one of “God’s children”, and it’s hard to figure how that’s to humankind’s benefit. It’s up to “us” people to figure out how to combat it, and science plays a major part.

  10. Regarding big pharma and drug costs, it seems to me that much of the problem is governments allowing such profiteering. Here in OZ, the government lists approved medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schemer, negotiates with the manufacturers to buy them at a reasonable rate, and the patient pays no more than $41 per prescription. For example, I am prescribed a monoclonal antibody that slows calcium loss from bone and is administered twice yearly. The ‘real cost’ is about $280 each. I pay $41 each.

    1. I think it is

      1. Not Neil DeGrasse Tyson
      2. Not the Allstate guy

      Other than that, I imagine he (yes, I say that’s a male voice and timbre) was selected because he SOUNDS *LIKE* 1,2.

    1. At least we know there is science, but we have no evidence for any God, much less the one you seem to believe in. Is that the god, by the way, who decided to kill thousanda and thousands of people with coronavirus, and thousands of young children with cancer? The god you believe in is either apathetic or deliberately evil.

      No thanks. Now go away.

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