The Dr. Fishbein Experience: Rocking the Boat at NIAID

Robert F. Kennedy’s book The Real Anthony Fauci is filled with stories of wrongdoing and inhumane criminality by both government officials and corporate executives. Reviewing the story of Dr. Jonathan Fishbein’s tenure at the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases will encapsulate the problems that are so deeply entrenched in this agency. 

Dr. Fishbein was hired by Dr. Fauci to be the NIAID ethics officer. It didn’t go well. 

He told Kennedy:

I came into government very naive. At the very least, I assumed that since Dr. Fauci wanted me to make sure studies were properly done, safety came first and that the participants [of clinical trials] were protected. I was wrong.

Fishbein ran afoul of Fauci and his minions over a trial of a drug called Nevirapine used to treat HIV. Instead of curing anything, the drug caused liver failure and death. He then tried to report troubling side effects of a cancer chemotherapy and AIDS drug called interleukin-2 (also called IL-2 or Proleukin) that was causing capillary leak and suicidal thoughts. 

He realized that the patients in the clinical trial of IL-2 weren’t being informed of the possible side effects of their participation. Then he found another appalling fact, as Kennedy reports here: 

Anthony Fauci personally owned patents to IL-2 and stood to make millions in royalties if the treatment won FDA approval. Dr. Fishbein was shocked: “Dr. Fauci had a personal financial interest in the drug being tested! He was listed as a co-owner on the patent for Proleukin and stood to earn royalties from it!” According to little-known HHS rules at that time, NIH employees could collect unlimited royalty payments from drugs they worked on during their agency tenures. 

Fauci spent $36 million of taxpayer funds on trials of IL-2.

Fishbein tried to get the Investigator Brochure used as part of the trial updated to include warnings about the risks of IL-2. He said:

I wrote a letter to the executive committee telling them to update the brochure. From that point on, the floor came out below me. 

Down the road, when emails and other documents revealed to Dr. Fishbein what was happening behind the scenes after he wrote this letter, he learned that secret plans were launched within days to work out how to fire him without involving Dr. Fauci in any public way. 

In these dates, you can see when the ax began to fall:

February 6, 2004: Fishbein wrote the letter to the executive committee. 

February 9, 2004: Fishbein was recommended for a $2,500 Service Recognition Award for outstanding job performance.

February 13, 2004: The award was blocked and the prize was canceled. 

February 25, 2004: Fishbein was fired. 

Journalist Celia Farber reported: 

Jonathan Fishbein [was] tarred and feathered for pointing out that the NIH flagship study on Nevirapine was a complete disaster. Fishbein’s failure to fall into line, his failure to understand that Nevirapine was too big to fail, meant that the AIDS bureaucracy’s neutralizing antibodies had to be activated to destroy him… His big problem is that he thought his job was legit.

Instead of leaving, Fishbein stayed in the agency and fought his firing. He used every possible communication channel to resolve any issues. The NIH banned all employees from talking to him. No one responded to his requests for meetings. He went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Finally, two senators demanded an explanation for Fishbein’s firing and accused NIAID of retaliating against Fishbein to silence his charges of corruption at NIAID. 

While he was engaged in this fight, a secret internal review of the Nevirapine trials confirmed the worst of Fishbein’s concerns about the drug’s problems. In this review, Dr. Ruth Kirchstein, senior advisor to the director of the NIH, noted:

It is clear that [Dr. Fauci’s AIDS Branch] is a troubled organization.

She also warned that Fauci’s efforts to fire Fishbein appeared to be reprisal for his actions.

Fishbein took his case to the Merit Systems Protection Board, asserting protection under whistleblower laws. The board reinstated him, determining that his firing was wrongful retribution. Once he was back at NIAID, Fishbein knew there was no future for him because no one would work with him. He negotiated a termination deal. Still, he couldn’t get a public health job for the next five years because of Fauci’s vendetta against him. 

The book includes Fishbein’s assessment of Fauci and NIAID:

Everyone in science is terrified of crossing him. He’s like a mafia kingpin. He controls everything and everyone in public health. He spreads so much money around and everyone knows he is vindictive. I had one friend tell me, “I can’t risk hiring you because I can’t afford to anger Fauci.” This was my first exposure to the cancel culture…

I believed the government could find solutions, and that justice always prevailed. My experience at the Division of AIDS [within NIAID] really opened my eyes about how the system really operated. The federal budget is a big trough to feed special interest groups. But if you become wise to it, open your mouth, and get on the wrong side of someone really powerful, they are out for blood. The government lawyers up, and they have unlimited resources to burn you. Truth may not be on their side, but they can throw every obstacle in your way to getting a fair hearing of your grievance. And you can’t get justice because litigation will drain you to your last penny. 

Dealing with Tony Fauci is like dealing with organized crime. He’s like the godfather. He has connections everywhere. He’s always got people that he’s giving money to in powerful positions to make sure he gets his way—that he gets what he wants. These connections give him the ultimate power to fix everything, control every narrative, escape all consequence, and sweep all the dirt and all the bodies under the carpet and to terrorize and destroy anyone who crosses him. [Chapter 8]

Back to Nevirapine

And about Nevirapine. Fauci convinced the World Health Organization in 2000 to provide Nevirapine with an Emergency Use Authorization for use on pregnant women to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to babies. President Bush purchased millions of dollars of this drug for use in African countries where testing for HIV is so seriously inaccurate that it might not even be used on women infected with this virus. 

Instead of being compared against a placebo, Nevirapine was used in a trial in Uganda, comparing its effects to AZT. In other words, one group of mothers was given Nevirapine and another group was given AZT, which I talked about in my last two articles. NIAID’s official report on this trial: [T]he two regimens were well-tolerated. But sixteen babies died in the Nevirapine group and 22 died in the AZT group. 

An independent investigation of this trial found serious inaccuracies, missing records and ethical violations. Adverse effects, serious adverse effects and deaths were omitted from the results.

Fauci was counting on this drug and the program of administration to provide him with a career-boosting win. Instead, as Celia Farber reported, the drug didn’t work and it killed both mothers and children.

Incredibly, Fauci began to pull strings behind the scenes. NIAID went to work to whitewash the problems with the drug. Researchers massaged the test results, ignoring the report of the independent investigators. By 2002, the FDA approved the drug for use on pregnant women. The WHO began shipping the drug to pregnant women around the world. A later trial on twenty-one pregnant women had this result:

…four of twenty-one infants died and twelve suffered “serious adverse effects.” Furthermore, the studies suggested that Nevirapine was ineffective. None of the women experienced reduction of viral loads. 

One woman in Tennessee, four months pregnant, was dead after forty-one days of treatment with Nevirapine. Her baby was delivered by Caesarian section three days before she died. It is worth noting that pregnancy can cause a false positive HIV test. This woman, Joyce Hafford, had no clue she was positive for HIV, had no signs of ill health before starting this treatment and was possibly never even notified of the risks of taking Nevirapine. 

This is America’s public health system at work. It’s no wonder that Americans are overmedicated and that high numbers of Americans suffer from preventable diseases.

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