Christine Ford and the Mifepristone industry

Prologue. I had no reason to sympathize with either Ford or Kavanaugh before the Congressional hearings. I listened to Ford’s testimony with an open mind, partially based on my naïve belief that a respectable professor would not presume to lie to the Congress in cold blood. However, Ford’s testimony became less and less credible as she kept talking – finally reaching a pitch of absurdity (as absurd as her facetious intonation) that made me question why a scientist would try to concoct such a clownish, unbelievable story.

As an additional disclaimer, let me note that I am an irreligious person. I do think abortion must be legal at least in some circumstances. I have no formal or informal ties to either Ford or Kavanaugh, nor any person/group affiliated with either person. I have an advanced degree in molecular biology and I know the world of bioscience quite well.

Question: Did Christine Ford have an improper political/financial agenda in coming forward with accusations against Brett Kavanaugh?

Answer: Christine Ford worked as a biostatistics director for Corcept Therapeutics,[1] which must have involved a very satisfying salary. She has published multiple papers under the sponsorship of Corcept, which translates to an enormous amount of emotional and intellectual investment on the topic.[2] (Her directorship at Corcept seems to be her main line of employment outside the walls of academia). Each scientific publication is a major enterprise which involves massive amounts of funding; being a first author on a paper about mifepristone translates to an enormous degree of prestige which is dependent on the availability of the drug on the market. Nepotism and conflict(s) of interest are widespread problems in scientific research.[3] “Publish or perish” is a common problem. Funding is available on an extremely competitive basis. This also means that sponsors can exert an enormous amount of influence upon their researchers, who are subject to the whims of their sponsors.

The main market product of Corcept Therapeutics is a drug called Korlym, i.e. they generate revenue primarily through the sale of this drug.[4] Korlym’s active ingredient is a pharmaceutical agent called mifepristone, which is a progesterone blocker. Biological agents rarely have unilateral or “pure” effects. A single hormone often produces various stimuli and multiple hormones can trigger the same response.  As such, the pharmaceutical industry often uses combinations of biochemical agents to create the desired effect. Mifepristone is used in conjunction with misoprostol in order to induce abortions: neither ingredient is reliably effective in and of itself. Mifepristone is very effective as an “emergency contraceptive”[5] but it is often used in conjunction with misoprostol to induce an abortion after the first two weeks. Because it has such a strong effect, it is sold with an obligatory warning that it will terminate an ongoing pregnancy.[6] Indeed, mifepristone has been called “the gold standard drug of medical abortion.”[7] Christine Ford published multiple papers about mifepristone over the years, and the latest paper seems to have been published in 2012.[8]

Mifepristone has an additional therapeutic use, i.e. treating Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s syndrome is a very rare disorder[9] while abortions and emergency contraceptives are available on a massive basis. Therefore, only a very negligible amount of mifrepristone in the medical market is used to treat Cushing’s syndrome and the drug is used overwhelmingly as an abortifacient and/or emergency contraceptive. A total of 652,639 legal abortions take place in the United States every year.[10] This number does not include illegal abortions; nor does it include the massive “emergency contraceptive” industry.

It is widely understood that Kavanaugh’s confirmation will lead to a situation in which there will be a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, and this conservative majority may certainly overturn or restrict Roe v. Wade.[11] Many states have already increased the restrictions around abortion[12] and they have passed “trigger laws”[13] which will ban abortion as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned. There are already 13 lawsuits challenging to Roe v. Wade pending at circuit courts.[14] Further complicating the picture is Kavanaugh’s influence as a Catholic jurisprudent: it is no secret that Catholic doctrine prohibits contraceptive use, including emergency contraceptives, as sinful.

If abortion is banned or restricted, this would not only prevent American doctors from prescribing mifepristone in any capacity but may also lead to the (likely) de facto ban of all mifepristone production and research. Even if Corcept were to file a legal objection to carve out an exception for the use of mifepristone to treat Cushing’s syndrome, such an objection will not survive. There are many other biochemical agents, none of which have abortion-inducing effects, which can be prescribed by a physician to regulate cortisol synthesis (i.e. treat Cushing’s syndrome) in the human body. Potassium and ascorbic acid (which are very cheap in terms of manufacture) play important roles in cortisol regulation. Physicians regularly prescribe a variety of pharmaceutical agents to treat Cushing’s syndrome: aminoglutethimide, ketoconazole, metyrapone, mitotane. None of these pharmaceutical agents induce abortions. Put in other words: pharmaceutical abortion is impossible without mifepristone, but it is very much possible to cure Cushing’s syndrome without mifepristone (and Cushing’s syndrome is an extremely rare condition anyway).

Nothing will prevent the federal government from creating additional sanctions against the abortion industry if Roe v. Wade is overturned/restricted. This might include criminal charges against physicians who attempt to prescribe the drug “under the counter” and severe financial penalties against all scientific research implicated in abortion, i.e. all research implicating mifepristone synthesis.[15] Pro-life activists have called for banning mifepristone in the past, on multiple occasions. Ford is perfectly aware of this: “in April 2017, she attended a March For Science in San Francisco, which was held to protest Trump administration cuts to research.”[16]

The fact that Ford’s papers discuss weight loss within the context of cortisol regulation (cortisol levels indeed play a role in obesity and bone density) has no bearing on the fact that she had a long-term assignment in Corcept Therapeutics, whose main market product is mifepristone, without which the abortion industry would cease to exist. Attempts at expanding the use of mifepristone are best understood as either PR efforts or experimental (and ultimately unsuccessful) forays into expanding the market power of mifepristone. Overturning or restricting Roe v. Wade would bring about enormous financial harm to Corcept and is likely to bankrupt the company altogether. Perhaps more crucially, a clique of scientists (which includes Ford) would not only lose all their prestige but an entire corpus of scientific literature (including Ford’s lifetime commitments) would become illegal and useless overnight. Christine Ford very likely believes that her entire lifetime of research is at stake, and such motivations can compel individuals to breach fundamental norms of society.

The circumstances detailed above would provide Christine Ford with a powerful political/financial motive to prevent Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Not only would she lose her job if Roe v. Wade is overturned but she would lose much of her scientific prestige and funding. Many of her friends and colleagues, for whom she presumably has strong collegial feelings, will experience the same fall from grace. Feminists are very vocal about defending Roe v. Wade[17] and we already know that some feminists have no problem whatsoever with weaponizing sexual harassment accusations.[18] Christine Ford’s strong views on this topic can be inferred from the protests she has attended.[19]

The enormous credibility problems of Christine Ford have been analysed in great lengths by a former prosecutor.[20] None of her witnesses corroborate her account. Her ex-boyfriend denounced her a fraudster[21] and the prosecutor who questioned her in the Congress also spelled out her lack of credibility.[22]

The evidence is incontrovertible. Christine Ford has perjured herself in cold blood during the Congressional hearings and I believe she has done so for improper financial and political reasons.

[1] https://www.paloaltou.edu/sites/default/files/pau_2015_2016_catalog_10_27_15_final.pdf

[2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Blasey%20C%5BAuthor%5D&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=16673835

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829174/

[4] The drug is very expensive. “The cost for Korlym oral tablet 300 mg is around $13,396 for a supply of 28 tablets, depending on the pharmacy you visit” https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/korlym

[5] 85 – 100%, the most effective method on the market. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/1115/p2287.html

[6] “Warning: The antiprogestational effects will result in the termination of pregnancy.” https://www.rxlist.com/korlym-drug.htm

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5135516/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21922193

[9] A study from Denmark “found an incidence of less than one case per million people per year” https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/86/1/117/2841121

[10] https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/abortion.htm

[11] Hillary Clinton predicted, for example, that Kavanaugh will “of course overturn Roe v. Wade.” https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/405159-clinton-of-course-kavanaugh-will-vote-to-overturn-roe-v-wade

[12] “States continued their assault on abortion in 2017, with 19 states adopting 63 new restrictions on abortion rights and access:” https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2018/01/policy-trends-states-2017

[13]  https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/abortion-policy-absence-roe

[14] https://www.vox.com/2018/9/7/17818458/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court-nominee-abortion-confirmation

[15] The Bush administration passed a federal funding ban against stem cell research, for example: http://healthland.time.com/2012/08/21/legitimate-rape-todd-akin-and-other-politicians-who-confuse-science/slide/bush-bans-stem-cell-research/

[16] https://www.npr.org/2018/09/17/648803684/who-is-christine-blasey-ford-the-woman-accusing-brett-kavanaugh-of-sexual-assaul

[17] Planned Parenthood has been opposing Kavanaugh by tweeting non-stop on the issue. https://twitter.com/PPFA

[18] One example among many is Sulkowicz v. Nungesser.

[19] https://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/09/16/kavanaugh-accuser-christine-blasey-ford-donned-brain-pussy-hat-trump-march/

[20] https://thefederalist.com/2018/10/02/61-questions-the-fbi-should-ask-about-christine-blasey-fords-story/

[21] https://www.foxnews.com/us/fox-news-first-ex-boyfriend-pokes-holes-in-christine-blasey-fords-story-fbi-kavanaugh-probe-could-end-wednesday

[22] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/rachel-mitchell-expertly-eviscerates-the-case-against-kavanaugh/2018/10/02/ec1ff7c4-c66d-11e8-9b1c-a90f1daae309_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a3ad2305cffe

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