Tax-payers Fund Research, Pharma Profits

Will Big Pharma Fleece Us On A COVID Treatment That We Helped Fund? – Too Much Informationby David Sirota – June 2020

Usually, it’s people with chronic illnesses that suffer the most from high drug prices, but now even the healthy are forced to look at the corrupted state of our pharmaceutical industry (and the whole healthcare system.)

The pharmaceutical industry and its political allies are trying to use the COVID crisis to portray drug companies as modern-day Jonas Salks — the hero from history who refused to patent and profit off the polio vaccine.

It’s a nice tale, but it can obscure the other story of pharmaceutical price gouging and the laws that may help corporations unduly profit off public health crises.  

An emblematic example is today’s New York Times column by Bret Stephens, purporting to review “the story of remdesivir.”

And yet, in this alleged “story of remdesivir,” Stephens wholly omits the role played by you, me and every other taxpayer in the development of the drug.

The Real Story of Remdesivir

Remdesivir has been developed with an infusion of public resources — specifically, “the ​U.S. Army, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute Allergies and Infectious Diseases subsidized the preclinical and clinical development of remdesivir,” according to a recent report from Knowledge Ecology International. Some of that research was conducted in collaboration with public universities.

Taxpayers Subsidize Pharmaceutical Industry Profits

Now sure, maybe you’re thinking Gilead could decide out of the goodness of its corporate heart to offer any future remdesivir treatment at an affordable price.

However:

  • Gilead is the same company that “raked in billions in profits from exorbitantly priced hepatitis C medications that were developed with taxpayer dollars, and then shifted those profits to offshore tax havens where it dodges U.S. taxes,” according to a 2016 report by Americans for Tax Fairness.
  • Gilead is the same company that took an HIV drug developed at taxpayer expense and “nearly tripled (the price) in the U.S. to more than $20,000 over the past 15 years,” making more than $36 billion off the medicine, according to the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News.
  • Gilead is also the same company that already made a preliminary move to try to juice profits off a potential COVID treatment (it only backed off when it was publicly shamed) — and it seems investors think Gilead is going to make a jackpot off the pandemic.

a recent report published by the National Academy of Sciences found that $100 billion of taxpayer funding contributed to “every one of the 210 new drugs approved by the FDA from 2010–2016.”

That funding is on top of the lucrative tax breaks the industry already benefits from. The industry returns the favor by charging Americans the world’s highest prices for medicine.

To prevent profiteering on COVID treatments, Congress… could right now begin the process of reinstating some version of a reasonable pricing rule.

…a former pharmaceutical executive went before Congress in late February and insisted with a straight face that when it comes to coronavirus treatments,

“We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest.

That word “can’t” is being used as a substitute for “won’t.”

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