Big Pharma Attacks Coronavirus Price Controls

“On April 15, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., along with Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, laid out basic principles for the development and pricing of coronavirus therapies and vaccines. Their demands were simple: Pharmaceutical companies should have to set reasonable prices for their drugs and vaccines used to treat or prevent Covid-19. They should be required to make the costs of research and manufacturing of these products public. During the pandemic, the legislators said, companies should not be able to profit exclusively from these potentially lifesaving drugs.

“Exclusivity determines who has access, who can manufacture, and how we scale up production to meet the need,” the members of Congress noted in a press release at the time….

Few have spoken out against the protections that were designed to ensure equitable access to lifesaving medicines — at least publicly. But privately, a coalition of conservative groups attacked the proposed patient protections as “dangerous, disruptive, and unacceptable.” In a May 7 letter, representatives of 31 groups, including Hudson Institute, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, and Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, called on Congress to reject the drug pricing guidelines and defended patents and the exclusive right to profit from drugs as “America’s great assets.” …

Perhaps most galling to the Democratic lawmakers is the fact that the vast majority (if not all) of the drugs they seek to protect from exorbitant pricing have been developed at least in part with taxpayer dollars. Between 2010 and 2016, every drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration benefited from science funded with federal research through the National Institutes of Health, according to the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs. During that time, taxpayers spent more than $100 billion on that research.

Although American taxpayers are the “angel investors” of pharmaceuticals, as Doggett put it, many cannot afford the treatments they’ve bankrolled….

On Friday, the World Health Organization unveiled a global effort to pool intellectual property, data, and research related to Covid-19. While 36 countries have already announced their support for the project, the U.S. was not among them. Just as WHO was detailing its plan to broadly share the benefits of scientific advancement, President Donald Trump was announcing his plan to withdraw from the global organization.”

New Report – How COVID-19 is Changing Research Culture – Digital Science

“The report key findings include: 

As of 1 June 2020, there have been upwards of 42,700 scholarly articles on COVID-19 published, 3,100 clinical trials, 420 datasets, 270 patents, 750 policy documents, and 150 grants.

Preprints have rapidly established as a mainstream research output and a key part of COVID-19 research efforts. They started at relatively low levels in early January 2020 and accounted for around one quarter of research output by the beginning of May 2020.

To date, more than 8,300 organisations have been involved in supporting COVID-19 research, with over 71,800 individual researchers identified as working on COVID-19 research.

The highest intensity of research into COVID-19 began in China and gradually migrated west mirroring the movement of the virus itself.

While the US and EU have both now published more than China in journals such as The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, China continues to benefit from an early mover advantage and continues to enjoy the lionshare of the citations. While research in the field is clearly moving quickly, it currently remains anchored to China’s early publications.

A density map of global COVID-19 paper production shows there are three to four major centres of research: an extended area in China composed of several cities—Wuhan, where the virus is alleged to have started, Beijing and Shanghai; Europe, specifically Italy and the UK, two of the harder hit countries; the US’s east coast research corridor including Boston and New York; and finally, a lighter focus from the Californian institutions on the West coast.

The top producing institution of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) is in China, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, followed by Harvard University and the University of Oxford.

The top healthcare producers of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) are Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, then Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

While the proportion of internationally co-authored work is steady, the vast majority of research on COVID to date has been unusually authored within countries.

At the time of writing, 156 grants totalling at least 20.8m USD have been awarded to COVID-themed researchers in public institutions.

Much of the clinical trial initiation activity in January and February is sponsored by China and this then begins to fall off in March, April and May. We see a similar wave for Europe and the US, but shifted back by two months, beginning in March….”

Pharma CEOs and IFPMA comment on WHO proposal for COVID 19 technology pool. – YouTube

“At a May 28 press briefing organized by the international Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), Pharma CEOs and the IFPMA DG comment on WHO proposal for global pool for rights in technologies for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Pascale Soriot, the CEO of AstaZeneca, a company receiving a reported $1.2 billion in funding from the US agency BARDA, claims he was “not aware” of the WHO proposal. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is the most negative, calling the proposal, dangerous. At 2:30 on this clip, Thomas Cueni of IFPMA claims that a focus on vaccine patents is misplaced since know-how is the larger issue, and he claims that there has never been a compulsory license on a vaccine patent.

There have been, of course, many disputes over patent rights for vaccines, and know-how, data and even access to cell lines, is actually part of the Costa Rica/WHO proposal for a COVID-19 technology pool, which, Thomas Cueni, a former journalist, certainly understands. The full IFPMA briefing is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wMMwDshed0 …”

Pharma CEOs and IFPMA comment on WHO proposal for COVID 19 technology pool. – YouTube

“At a May 28 press briefing organized by the international Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), Pharma CEOs and the IFPMA DG comment on WHO proposal for global pool for rights in technologies for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Pascale Soriot, the CEO of AstaZeneca, a company receiving a reported $1.2 billion in funding from the US agency BARDA, claims he was “not aware” of the WHO proposal. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is the most negative, calling the proposal, dangerous. At 2:30 on this clip, Thomas Cueni of IFPMA claims that a focus on vaccine patents is misplaced since know-how is the larger issue, and he claims that there has never been a compulsory license on a vaccine patent.

There have been, of course, many disputes over patent rights for vaccines, and know-how, data and even access to cell lines, is actually part of the Costa Rica/WHO proposal for a COVID-19 technology pool, which, Thomas Cueni, a former journalist, certainly understands. The full IFPMA briefing is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wMMwDshed0 …”

Could a patent get in between you and a Covid-19 test? Yes | Opinion | The Guardian

“Imagine if one company held a patent covering all methods of testing for Covid-19 antibodies. The company could charge monopoly prices for its tests and prohibit competitors – including non-profit and university labs – from manufacturing or administering their own. If the company made itself the country’s sole supplier, it would struggle to meet demand. The company would profit, but Americans would face waiting lists, confusion and inequitable access – and the virus would keep spreading.

Would a patent holder ever exploit an outbreak of life-threatening infectious disease in this way? Yes. In 2001, the United States faced a credible threat of an anthrax outbreak, yet Bayer refused to license its patents on ciprofloxacin (Cipro), the most effective antibiotic treatment for anthrax, to competitors, even as Bayer itself struggled to supply the nation’s antibiotic stockpile.

It may seem outlandish to imagine one patent creating a wide-ranging monopoly on diagnostic testing, but it happened. In the 1990s and 2000s, biotech companies obtained and enforced broad patents on medical diagnostics that gave them near-total control of testing for particular conditions. One company obtained patents on methods of diagnosing people at high risk of developing breast cancer and “attempted to eliminate … testing at competing laboratories by sending cease-and-desist letters”; another became “the sole provider of genetic testing for many neurological and endocrine conditions”, including muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s disease….”

Pharmaceutical patents: reconciling the human right to health with the incentive to invent – ScienceDirect

“Highlights

Drug discovery is exciting and transformative but conflicts exist between the incentive to invent and the rights of others to access medicines
Tensions between fundamental rights to access essential medicines and rights of the inventor and investors are considered 
Effective incentives to innovate in developed countries can lead to global improvements in access to medicine if the intellectual property system is calibrated to permit this 
Compulsory licensing and alternative mechanisms facilitating global access to drugs in the context of rights to the highest attainable standard of health and intellectual property are also discussed…”

Open COVID Pledge Aims to Break Down Barriers to Innovation – SPARC

“As people around the world wrestle with how to manage the global pandemic, it’s clear that development of testing kits, vaccines, medicine, medical equipment, and software can’t happen soon enough. The Open COVID Pledge was launched in April to help speed this process, by encouraging organizations to make their patents and copyrights freely available in the fight against COVID-19….”

Patents vs. the Pandemic by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Arjun Jayadev and Achal Prabhala – Project Syndicate

“As researchers around the world rush to develop new diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19, we must not forget that such cooperation is an exception to the rule. In the absence of public intervention, we will remain reliant for life-saving drugs and vaccines on a monopoly-driven system that favors profits over people….”

Patents vs. the Pandemic by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Arjun Jayadev and Achal Prabhala – Project Syndicate

“As researchers around the world rush to develop new diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19, we must not forget that such cooperation is an exception to the rule. In the absence of public intervention, we will remain reliant for life-saving drugs and vaccines on a monopoly-driven system that favors profits over people….”

Microsoft commits patents to help fight COVID-19 – Microsoft on the Issues

“I am very pleased to announce that, today, Microsoft is committing to the Open COVID Pledge by making its patents available free of charge for use in efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize the impact of the disease.  This step joins our other efforts to use technology and innovation to help track the disease and develop solutions, such as mobilizing AI for Health to fight COVID-19 and the Bing COVID19 Tracker. Additional information about Microsoft’s COVID-19 efforts can be found here.

We are always looking for ways we can use our patents to contribute to positive outcomes, and the fight against COVID-19 is one of the most urgent issues of our time. Pledges and open licensing of this kind can help spur innovation, especially in a crisis like this one. Researchers, scientists and others working to fight the virus should be able to develop and deploy effective solutions at scale without obstacles such as being threatened with patent litigation….”