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February 20, 2020

Rep. Pressley, House Democrats Demand Fair Drug Pricing For Taxpayer-Funded Coronavirus Vaccine or Treatment

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined 45 of her Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to President Donald J. Trump to raise serious concerns about awarding exclusive licenses for the production of a potential coronavirus vaccine or treatment and allowing drug manufactures to monopolize drugs that have been funded by millions of taxpayer dollars. 

In the letter, the lawmakers implored that the price of a potential coronavirus vaccine or treatment must not threaten public health by deterring access to these vital therapies.

“We write to ask you to ensure that any vaccine or treatment developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars be accessible, available, and affordable. That goal cannot be met if pharmaceutical corporations are given authority to set prices and determine distribution, putting profit-making interests ahead of public health priorities. Americans deserve to know that they will benefit from the fruits of their public investments. Specifically, we urge the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) not to provide an exclusive license to any private manufacturer for a coronavirus vaccine or treatment in any government grants, contracts, or licensing arrangements,” the Members of Congress wrote.

The letter goes on to outline concerns with issuing an exclusive license using taxpayer dollars.

“Providing exclusive monopoly rights could result in an expensive medicine that is inaccessible, wasting public resources and putting public health at risk in the United States and around the globe. If HHS or any other federal agency moves forward with such a proposal, we urge you to instead issue a limited license and implement requirements that a vaccine or treatment be made available at an affordable price. You should also allow HHS to intervene if a manufacturer prices a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment at an excessive level. Such action is particularly critical for vaccines, which are most effective when the vast majority of the public is immunized; you must use every tool of the federal government to ensure a coronavirus vaccine is affordable and accessible.”

This is the third time in the last 20 years that a coronavirus has made the leap from animals to humans—severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus in 2002, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in 2012, and now the 2019 novel coronavirus. Though Big Pharma hasn’t invested in coronavirus vaccines or treatments, the American taxpayer has. A Public Citizen report released today reveals that the National Institutes of Health has already spent nearly $700 million dollars on coronavirus research and development.

 “We are concerned that your Administration has already indicated its willingness to invest heavily in public-private partnerships without any conditions in place to guarantee affordable drug pricing and access,” the lawmakers write.

Over the past two weeks, the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has announced new agreements with Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi Pasteur to develop vaccines for the coronavirus. However, the Trump Administration has offered no indication that they will impose guidelines to ensure that these companies cannot monopolize the drugs and price them out of reach.  

Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Jan Schakowsky, Lloyd Doggett, Ro Khanna, Max Rose, Mark Pocan, Peter A. DeFazio, André Carson, Andy Levin, Alan Lowenthal, Jerrold Nadler, Raúl M. Grijalva, Carolyn B. Maloney, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pramila Jayapal, Grace Meng, Susan Wild, Tim Ryan, Steve Cohen, James P. McGovern, Bennie G. Thompson, Peter Welch, Thomas R. Suozzi, Darren Soto, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Marcy Kaptur, Judy Chu, Barbara Lee, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Danny Davis, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mark Takano, Mark DeSaulnier, Emanuel Cleaver II, John B. Larson, Rashida Tlaib, Gregory W. Meeks, Debbie Dingell, Rick Larsen, Henry Cuellar, Julia Brownley, Tulsi Gabbard, Brenda L. Lawrence, William R. Keating, Nydia Velázquez, and Charlie Crist.

The full letter can be found here.