The head of the World Health Organization estimated in a recent address that of the more than 700 million coronavirus vaccine doses that have been administered across the globe, just 0.2% have gone to people in low-income nations—inequity that experts warn will persist unless rich countries end their obstruction of an international effort to suspend vaccine patents.
Speaking to the media on Friday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus warned that “there remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines” as pharmaceutical companies cling to their monopoly control over technology that was developed with large infusions of public money. Continue reading →
While the Global South overprescribes antibiotics, in the West farm animals are pumped full of them, farmers even giving them to healthy animals so they can be packed tighter in ever-increasing herd sizes.
Big pharmaceutical companies have not come out of COVID-19 looking like model global citizens. Pfizer has been accused of bullying South American governments after demanding they put up military bases as collateral in exchange for vaccines. Meanwhile, Bill Gates persuaded Oxford University to sign an exclusive deal with AstraZeneca for its new offering, rather than allow it to be copied freely by all. The British/Swedish multinational quickly announced it would fall 50 million vaccines short on its first shipment to the European Union.
But what if there were a looming health crisis that could make COVID look almost minor in comparison? The World Health Organization (WHO) has been warning of just such a case for some time now, predicting that antimicrobial resistance will kill up to 10 million people every year by 2050 — almost four times as many as the coronavirus has killed in the past 12 months. Continue reading →
Eager to capitalize on the lasting presence of the coronavirus, executives at Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer—the pharmaceutical corporations that supplied the Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S.—are quietly planning to hike prices on doses “in the near future,” once they decide the pandemic is over, The Intercept’s Lee Fang reported Thursday.
Although the rapid development of coronavirus vaccines—made possible by large infusions of public resources—has given Big Pharma companies “a boost in goodwill… the public is still sensitive to drug pricing and the reputational risk has, so far, curtailed their ability to reap large financial rewards,” Fang noted. “But that environment, they hope, will change once the pandemic ends: a date that drugmakers themselves reserve the right to declare.” Continue reading →
“It’s time we reevaluate the standards for approving these mergers. It’s time we pass legislation to lower drug prices. And it’s time we rethink the structure of leadership at big pharmaceutical companies.”
A new report from Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) reveals how Big Pharma uses mergers and acquisitions to increase profits at the expense of Americans’ healthcare.. Screenshot: CNN
Rep. Katie Porter on Friday published a damning report revealing the devastating effects of Big Pharma mergers and acquisitions on U.S. healthcare, and recommending steps Congress should take to enact “comprehensive, urgent reform” of an integral part of a broken healthcare system.
“The unfair patent system is now one the biggest obstacles to defeating this virus.”
That was the core critique from Nick Dearden, executive director of the U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now, on Friday morning in response to news this week that South Africa is paying more than double for AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine compared to most countries in Europe.
According to a report by The Guardian, a Belgian minister leaked information revealing that European Union members are paying €1.78 ($2.16) per dose for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Meanwhile, even as the pharmaceutical giant has said it would cap the price at €2.50 (approx. $3) per dose, South Africa’s deputy director general of health Anban Pillay confirmed to the newspaper that it was quoted a price of $5.25 per dose. Continue reading →
“If Trump gets the Supreme Court to strike down ACA, the richest 0.1% would get a tax cut of $198,000 a year, and Big Pharma would get a tax cut of $2.8 billion. But millions of seniors would pay billions more for prescription drugs, and 20 million would lose their health insurance.”
Health Care Reform Law Protests at the US Supreme Court in 2012. Photo: Elvert Barnes/CC
New research released Tuesday shows that if the Supreme Court next month sides with the Trump administration and 18 state attorneys general seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more than 20 million people would lose health insurance and millions more would be forced to pay more for healthcare—in the middle of a pandemic—while Big Pharma and the richest 0.1% would enjoy major tax cuts.
“The stakes in this case, always extraordinarily high”—wrote Tara Straw and Aviva Aron-Dine in one of several reports (pdf) published this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)—”are even higher now amidst a global pandemic and an economic crisis that has caused more people to lose health insurance and become eligible for help from the ACA.” Continue reading →
During the debate Trump claimed that insulin is now “so cheap it’s like water,” but A 10ml vial of insulin from Novo Nordisk or Eli Lilly, for example, costs Americans $290, ranking it alongside the likes of Chanel No. 5 and scorpion venom as among the most expensive liquids in the world.
One of Trump’s more questionable claims he made at the now infamous first presidential debate was that he was driving down medical costs for ordinary Americans. Under his presidency, the 74-year-old New Yorker claimed, diabetes medicine insulin had gone from so expensive that it was “destroying families” to “so cheap it’s like water.” “This is big stuff,” he added.
Trump had indeed signed an executive order on insulin in July. But the scope of the new legislation was extremely limited, targeting only a small group of health care providers and benefitting only two percent of the relevant outlets for insulin. In reality, insulin prices have tripled in the last decade, rising to new exorbitant highs not seen anywhere else in the world. A 10ml vial of insulin from Novo Nordisk or Eli Lilly, for example, costs Americans $290, ranking them alongside the likes of Chanel No. 5 and scorpion venom as among the most expensive liquids in the world. Continue reading →
Ethics watchdogs on Wednesday slammed a ruling by the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general, who decided this week that Moncef Slaoui, a former pharmaceutical executive now heading the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine task force, does not have to disclose or divest his investments in the industry.
As the co-director of Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership aimed at finding a vaccine for Covid-19 by the end of 2020, Slaoui is in the position to award contracts to pharmaceutical companies researching potential vaccines and treatments. Continue reading →
Consumer advocates reacted with disgust Monday to an announcement by Gilead Sciences that it will charge U.S. hospitals around $3,120 per privately insured patient for a treatment course of remdesivir, a drug which has proven modestly effective at speeding Covid-19 recovery times.
Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program, called Gilead’s pricing—which works out to around $520 per dose for non-government buyers like hospitals—”an offensive display of hubris and disregard for the public” and slammed the Trump administration for failing to ensure that the price of a drug developed with substantial taxpayer support is affordable for all. Continue reading →
“It’s so unbelievably shocking to see corporate lawyers actively discussing having foreign investors use ISDS to challenge countries over their coronavirus lockdown measures, and try to extract ‘expected future profits’ from them.”
Lidia Senra speaking against ISDS in the European Parliament in February 2019. Photo: Lidia Senra/Twitter
Prominent corporate law firms representing major businesses in the United States, Italy, Spain, and other nations are openly discussing the possibility of companies using a secretive and notorious legal process to sue countries over future profits lost due to government efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, the non-profit research group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) documented numerous examples of high-powered corporate law firms—including Ropes & Gray, Alston & Bird, and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan—publicly licking their chops over the lucrative opportunity presented by the Covid-19 crisis and government attempts to fight it. Continue reading →