When medical historians look back at the Covid-19 pandemic, they will reckon with how the United States, with its vast technological and scientific resources, stumbled so badly in the face of an emerging virus.
Simply put, more people will die from Covid-19 because we cannot study drugs more quickly.
This does not mean that it would be better to provide people with unproven therapies — or that Covid-19 studies should be accelerated so fast that we draw the wrong conclusions or put people at risk. But our inability to start and run clinical trials faster — whether in normal times or in a pandemic — is a legacy of our decision not to develop the technologies and approaches that would make doing so easier.
What would the system look like if we fixed it? It would make it easier to study drugs for heart disease, where studies are so large and expensive that many companies don’t test their medicines. It would ease studies for rare cancers, which are currently problematic because the right patients are hard to find. And it could create a medical information superhighway that would power health care through the next century.
It would certainly help with the next pandemic.