Earlier this week, we debunked pharma’s lies about how drug pricing reforms will hinder innovation and patient access to medications. Our campaign debunking Big Pharma’s lies and setting the record straight on the comprehensive reforms in Congress is updated each day here.
Today, we’ll explain how taxpayers played a critical role in funding the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines.
? Big Pharma’s Lie: Drug companies saved us with their COVID-19 vaccines. Cracking down on their prices now could hinder future vaccine and drug development.
Taxpayer funding was the engine behind the COVID-19 vaccines, and the package of drug pricing reforms passed by the House will allow the United States to continue leading in drug development while allowing patients to access the medications and vaccines we need at prices we can afford. Taxpayers paved the way for the successful COVID-19 vaccines by investing billions of dollars in research prior to the pandemic and assuming the financial risk after the pandemic began by funding clinical trials, boosting manufacturing capacity, and making advance purchase agreements. Research into the mRNA technology behind the vaccines began decades ago in federally funded labs, and analysts estimate that the U.S. government spent between $18 billion and $23 billion on developing and manufacturing COVID-19 vaccine candidates after the virus emerged. Moderna even admitted that its vaccine was 100 percent funded using federal dollars — in fact, NIH scientists have filed applications for several patents related to the vaccine.
While drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna try to scare patients by threatening the future of vaccines under the drug pricing reforms, theirexecutives have reaped enormous profits on the COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer is expected to shatter records with $32 billion in sales this year while Moderna projects $19 billion in sales this year. As COVID-19 is expected to be endemic, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel says the company is preparing to raise prices. To ensure Americans are protected from price gouging on life-saving vaccines, we must pass reforms to limit price hikes to the rate of inflation.
In this New York Times op-ed on the role taxpayers played in developing the COVID-19 vaccines, P4AD founder David Mitchell writes, “Americans should stop buying the pharmaceutical industry’s argument that innovation and new drug development will dry up if the government uses its purchasing power and bargains to get a better deal. The United States spends more per capita than any other wealthy nation for prescription drugs — often the same drugs available for far less overseas. … This year, we can achieve reforms that both advance innovation and ensure Americans can afford the medicines — and vaccines — we need.”
Drug pricing was trending in 2021. Here’s a look back at patient advocacy wins and progress toward victories in the year to come.
Welcome to the Year in Review.
1. One-On-Ones With The White House
As the Biden administration worked with lawmakers to craft the reconciliation package, patients across the country brought their stories to the highest office in the land. They offered the president their support as he pushes to deliver on his commitment to lower drug prices. Patient advocates Gail deVore, Iesha Meza, and Sa’Ra Skipper, who all live with type 1 diabetes, metwithPresidentBiden at the White House to share their experiences with high insulin prices and discuss the urgent need to include drug pricing reforms in the legislation. Iesha also introduced the president ahead of his December remarks on how the Build Back Better Act will lower drug prices, and Gailfollowed up with Vice President Harris to talk about getting the bill across the finish line.
2. Fighting Pharma’s Falsehoods
The pharmaceutical industry and its front groups worked overtime in 2021 to spread misleading claims that drug pricing reforms will hurt patients, but the facts aren’t on their side. In response, P4AD released an innovation report and a video debunking pharma’s falsehoods that reforms would hinder innovation and explaining how we can have the innovation we need at prices we can afford. To refute unsubstantiated claims that drug price reforms will lead to reduced access to prescription drugs, P4ADNow launched a video and David Mitchell penned an op-ed emphasizing how lower drug prices will increase patient access to medications they need. Pricehikereports show that pharma raises prices at will, resulting in outrageous costs for patients, enormous profits for drug companies, and huge paydays for their executives. To highlight Big Pharma’s web of influence, P4AD released a report detailing how the financial and organizational relationships between drug companies and major patient groups constrain these groups from advocating for meaningful legislation to lower drug prices. Over and over again, independent factcheckers rated pharma and its allies’ claims as false. The truth is that patientsneedMedicarenegotiation now for real relief from high prices, and we must not fall for pharma’s fear-mongering.
3. Congressional Priority: Drug Pricing
This year, Congress is closer than it has been in nearly two decades to addressing high drug prices. Lawmakers wrapped up an investigation into pharmaceutical pricing practices and the House passed the Build Back Better Act including a hardfought compromise on drug pricing reforms. Patientsshared their stories at all of the congressional hearings held on drug pricing and utilized an advocacy hub launched by P4ADNow to voice how they have been harmed by high prescription drug prices. P4AD founder David Mitchell spokeathearings and press conferences about the urgent need for reforms. P4ADNow and influential organizations representing seniors, union workers, and patients ran ad campaigns urging Congress to seize the opportunity to help Americans by lowering drug prices. These groups, along with frontline Democrats, also sentletters to congressionalleadership and pennedop-eds pushing Congress and the White House to include drug pricing reform in the reconciliation package.
In the second year of the pandemic, drug companies pointed to the development of the COVID-19 vaccines as a reason why prices must be kept high — failing to tell the full story involving billions of dollars in government investment in vaccine research and development. P4AD’s David Mitchell penned a New York Times op-ed, Wall Street Journal letter, and blog post that lays out how the government and taxpayersunderwrote the risk while drug companies now stand to shatter sales records and collect billions of dollars from the vaccines. “To all those drug corporations and executives making billions from those of us paying the bills,” Mitchell writes, “You’re welcome.”
WASHINGTON, DC — The following statement was issued today by David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, regarding the introduction of the bipartisan Taxpayer Research and Coronavirus Knowledge (TRACK) Act and Make Medications Affordable by Preventing Pandemic Pricegouging (MMAPPP) Act. “American taxpayers are fueling the research, development, and purchase of treatments and vaccines to fight coronavirus. Given that investment, we must receive transparency into how our money is spent and the actual costs to produce medicines. Prices for taxpayer-funded vaccines and treatments must be set fairly to ensure affordability and accessibility for all who need them, along with a reasonable return for the drugmaker. The two bipartisan bills introduced today aim to accomplish those public policy imperatives. Patients For Affordable Drugs Now is proud to lend its endorsement and will work to support enactment of these important bills.”
The Taxpayer Research and Coronavirus Knowledge (TRACK) Act was introduced today by Representatives Doggett (D-TX), Rooney (R-FL), Schakowsky (D-IL), DeLauro (D-CT), and DeFazio (D-OR). The bill would create a comprehensive and user-friendly database of taxpayer investments into COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
The Make Medications Affordable by Preventing Pandemic Pricegouging (MMAPPP) Act was introduced today by Representatives Schakowsky (D-IL), Rooney (R-FL), Doggett (D-TX), DeLauro (D-CT), and DeFazio (D-OR). The bill aims to assure reasonable and affordable prices on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines and would:
Require reasonable pricing for COVID-19 drugs by inserting reasonable pricing clauses in agreements between drug companies and the federal agencies funding drug research and development.
Establish transparency and reporting requirements for drug companies bringing COVID-19 therapeutics to market.
Eliminate exclusive licenses for COVID-19 drugs and allow other drug companies to produce those drugs as long as it pays the original drug company royalties.
Taxpayers have been heavily investing in COVID-19 drug research and development through billions of dollars in BARDA grants. Currently, drug companies receiving taxpayer funds are able to bring these COVID-19 treatments and vaccines to market at any price.
WASHINGTON, DC — Patients For Affordable Drugs Now sent a letter to Capitol Hill this week urging Congress to focus on three topics in upcoming COVID-19 legislative packages: ensuring taxpayer investment into COVID-19 drugs is factored into prices, helping the nation prepare for future public health emergencies, and addressing the high list prices of prescription drugs as Americans struggle with the impact of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 did not make high drug prices go away — it worsened the crisis for patients,” the letter states. “Every dollar we pay in unjustified profits to drug corporations is a dollar we could use to support ordinary Americans whose health and economic well-being has been devastated by this pandemic. If we had unlimited resources as a nation, these choices wouldn’t matter. But we don’t.”
The letter, addressed to congressional leaders in the House and the Senate and signed by patients from all 50 states, calls for congressional action in three key areas:
Ensure taxpayers have a say in COVID-19 drug pricing. Since March, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has awarded more than $1.2 billion to the pharmaceutical industry for COVID-19 drugs — with no stipulations on fair pricing. As partners in the scientific and funding processes, American taxpayers deserve a say in the price.
Prioritize long-term incentives for infectious disease research over short-sighted giveaways to the drug industry. Pharma does not need new incentives to develop COVID-19 drugs. The federal government is bankrolling research, sponsoring clinical trials, and eliminating all liability for drug corporations investing in COVID-19 drugs, and the pandemic’s global impact guarantees billions of buyers. Instead, Congress should invest in and incentivize research to prevent and prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks.
Lower drug prices now. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the drug pricing crisis in the United States. Alongside soaring unemployment numbers, 27 million Americans could lose employer-based health insurance, exposing many of them to high list prices. Congress must take long-awaited action on drug prices immediately.
Patients For Affordable Drugs Now is an independent, bipartisan patient organization focused on policies to lower drug prices. P4ADNow does not accept funding from any organizations that profit from the development or distribution of prescription drugs.