How Warren Buffett's philanthropy secretly funded contraception

Vincenzina Santoro
November 11, 2015
Reproduced with Permission

Contraceptive market sales in the United States alone were estimated to be US$6 billion in 2013. The major promoters of "family planning products" are known to be some of the world's richest philanthropists who fund projects and products through their bountiful foundations.

However, one significant controversial development was kept under the radar until a sharp financial journalist recently discovered how a reinvented IUD was funded, researched, approved and became marketable.

The full story was brought to light in a feature article in a recent issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The article's title read as follows: " IUD Revolution. How the Buffett family is changing birth control in America ." The subtitle was even more revealing: "How the billionaire's family secretly funded a revolution in birth control."

The Buffett involvement began with the magnanimity of the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, ($3.1 billion in assets as of 12/31/2014) named for Warren Buffett's first wife, which today is the third largest family foundation in the US. To put matters into perspective, the article states: "In the past decade the Buffett Foundation has become the most influential supporter of research on IUDs and expanding access to contraception." None of the persons interviewed for the article mentioned the Buffett Foundation. The evidence was uncovered by examining tax filings that traced the money flow.

"For Warren, it's economic. He thinks that unless women can control their fertility - and that it's basically their right to control their fertility - that you are sort of wasting more than half of the brainpower in the United States," Judith DeSarno, the Buffett Foundation's former director for domestic programs, said in a 2008 interview for a reproductive health oral history project. "Well, not just the United States. Worldwide."

The Buffett Foundation funded a multi-year project to develop a cheap, effective and safe IUD that began with research in Colorado, a study in St Louis and the creation of a non-profit to manufacture the product after securing FDA approval. Having developed a new and "safe" IUD nonetheless required a bit of marketing to encourage usage due to the prior history of IUDs: The earliest products dating back to the 1970s proved harmful and even fatal for many women, in particular the Dalkon Shield.

The article states that the new IUD was developed by a specially created non-profit called Medicines360 "whose entire seed funding came from an anonymous donor" later discovered to be the Buffett Foundation. The cost of the IUD remained an obstacle too, but Medicines360, founded in 2009, developed a new IUD that was named and trademarked Liletta and subsequently sold to Allergan which paid $50 million to the company "plus $125 million more in addition to royalties." The product today is manufactured by Allergan, a $23 billion pharmaceutical company, best known its product Botox, which also produces generic medicines.

Medicines360 describes its mission as a non-profit in the women's health pharmaceutical business to provide access to medicines "regardless of socioeconomic status, insurance coverage or geographic location" according to its web site - but it does not indicate the production of any other "medicine."

Although the retail price is estimated at just under $800 for those with insurance or otherwise able to afford it, the deal between the Buffett Foundation and the Liletta producer stipulated the IUD should be available to public clinics for $50 so that they would be accessible to poor women.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the effectiveness of the new IUD was also financed "anonymously." With secret funding, the plan was to conduct a study at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St Louis which was named the Contraceptive Choice Project - "the biggest US medical study of IUD users conducted." It involved some $20 million of Buffett money.

In the 2010 study, to determine what type of contraceptive most women would choose, all types of contraceptives were offered free. The study revealed that 56 percent chose IUDs. Following this success, medical personnel involved published more than 50 papers in various medical journals. All the activity and publicity led to a turnaround in thinking at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists leading them to change their position on IUDs to encourage their use as the most effective form of contraception.

The promotional and marketing effort took place with another project called the Colorado Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies. That too was Buffett funded. The results showed in that state "The teen birthrate dropped 40% from 2009 to 2013 and the teen abortion rate was down by more than a third." The project cost the Buffetts $50 million.

Before the IUD could get FDA approval, a longer multi-year clinical study was ordered. The results showed that Liletta was 99.45 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. In February 2015 the FDA approved Liletta as a product that was effective for up to three years. Medicines360 is continuing trials in the hope of receiving FDA approval for using the device up to seven years.

The new IUD had succeeded - with funding of an estimated $74 million of Buffett Foundation money according to the article.

If the results are true, "IUD's are over 99% effective in preventing pregnancies, making them as effective as sterilization." With efforts to develop a new device, "the Buffett Foundation has become, by far, the most influential supporter of research on IUDs and expanding access to the contraceptive."

The Buffett Foundation insisted on anonymity from start to finish throughout development, mindful of the controversial nature of IUDs. To put matters into perspective, the article states: "In the past decade the Buffett Foundation has become the most influential supporter of research on IUDs and expanding access to contraception." However, as the article indicates, "Much of the foundation's other grants go to abortion-related work."

In effect, they are all elements of the culture of death, financed and promoted by richest of the rich, to be made available to rich and poor alike.