Programming Note: Darts and Letters is off. We are producing a new season on Cited Podcast, which is called “the Rationality Wars“.

Secondary Symptoms #6: Pandemic Fat Cats

There’s another coronavirus. This one, causing horrific swelling in cats, even killing them. Gilead Pharmacueticals might have a drug that can cure this feline coronavirus.  Yet, they’re not sharing that drug, possibly because they’re scared it might harm their chances with another drug: Remdesivir. You may have heard of it; it’s the supposed ‘gold standard’ of care for COVID-19. The story of Remdesivir (and of the black market cat drug sibling) reveals how pharmaceutical companies do their research, and the lengths they go to protect their profits.

On this episode of Secondary Symptoms, Gordon interviews Atlantic writer Sarah Zhang about her article on the strange story of feline coronavirus and its possible black market cure, GS-441524. Then, investigative journalist Sharon Lerner of the Intercept tells us about her reporting on GS-441524’s sibling, Remdesivir–no black market necessary. Also on the program, Shannon Brownlee of the Lown Institute, on how to make sense of drug research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, Professor Sergio Sismondo talks about his book Ghost-Managed Medicine, which pulls back the curtain on medical ghostwriting and the other invisible ways that the industry shapes pharmaceutical knowledge.


This episode is meant to accompany a wider series that we are doing this season about COVID-19 and the pharmaceutical industry. If you are interested in this episode of Secondary Symptoms, you would certainly be interested in a recent Cited documentary: the Tamiflu Trials. You can find it in this feed. 

You can also find related articles on our website, Including articles by our research assistant, Franklynn Bartol, on topics like: industry funding of patient advocacy groups, the meaning (and limitations) of ‘evidence-based medicine,’ and the broader research literature on industry funding and why it’s a problem


To keep up with Cited, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Tweet at us, or email your feedback to–we might just read it on the show.


This episode was produced by Jay Cockburn and Gordon Katic. Franklynn Bartol was our research assistant.

Our theme song and original music is by our composer, Mike Barber. Dakota Koop is our graphic designer. Our production manager is David Tobiasz, and executive producers are Gordon Katic and Sam Fenn.

This episode was funded in part by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This is part of wider project looking at trends in pharmaceutical research and policy. Dr. Joel Lexchin at the University of Toronto and Professor Sergio Sismondo at Queens University in Kingston are the research advisors on that project.

Cited is produced out of the Centre of Ethics at the University of Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. Cited is also produced out of the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia — that’s on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

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