Congressional Progressive Leaders Announce Principles On COVID-19 Drug Pricing for Next Coronavirus Response Package

April 15, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Energy & Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), and Ways & Means Health Subcommittee Chair Lloyd Doggett (TX-35) held a press call to outline key principles to ensure any COVID-19 drug will be accessible and affordable for all people.

On the call, the Representatives discussed how Congress can protect patients by preventing pharmaceutical companies’ price gouging on any potential vaccine or treatments for COVID-19. They offered, at a minimum, three protections:

  • NO EXCLUSIVITY: Pharmaceutical manufacturers should not be granted exclusivity for any COVID-19 vaccine, drug, or other therapeutic—whether it has been developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars and publicly funded, or not.
    • Exclusivity determines who has access, who can manufacture, and how we scale up production to meet the need. 
    • We cannot leave these decisions up to a single, profit-motivated private company.
  • STOP PROFITEERING: Pharmaceutical companies must not be allowed to sell any COVID-19 vaccine, drug or therapeutic at an unreasonable price, whether or not it has been developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars.
    • An “after the fact” enforcement mechanism is not efficient enough for a public health emergency—we must mandate up front that manufacturers agree to a reasonable price.
  • FULL TRANSPARENCY: For any COVID-19 vaccine, drug, or therapeutic, pharmaceutical manufacturers must publicly report the total expenditures of the manufacturer on:
    • research and development, disaggregated by clinical trial phase and the percentage of those total expenditures that was derived from Federal funds;
    • materials and manufacturing; and
    • meeting statutory standards and carrying out post-market requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

“Sad to say, but this Coronavirus pandemic has caused some of the greatest suffering of our time for individuals and our country at large, and yet there are those few who see this as an opportunity to benefit for  themselves and their companies by price gouging or one could say, by pandemic profiteering,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Today we are lifting up the urgent need to protect consumers from price gouging by Big Pharma, and the need to make sure, at this critical time, the needed treatments are and will be available at a price affordable to all people.”

“In December 1778, George Washington wrote: ‘No punishment in my opinion is too great for the man who can build his greatness upon his country’s ruin,’” said Congressman DeFazio. “Today—in the midst of a global pandemic—there is nothing to prevent pharmaceutical companies from their usual practice of using taxpayer dollars to develop drugs and vaccines, including for COVID-19, and then price-gouge consumers and reap massive profits on the taxpayer’s dime. By doing nothing, we are allowing Big Pharma to build their wealth upon our nation’s crisis. We need to ensure that any treatment for COVID-19 is accessible and affordable for all who need it.”

“COVID-19 is the biggest economic and health crisis our country has ever faced,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “Too often, vaccines and treatments are developed with the help of taxpayers’ dollars, then priced so high by pharmaceutical companies that they are out of reach for people who need them. We have seen this time and again: the government does all the work through Phase III trials, and then licenses it over to a manufacturer to finish the approval. It is like those years of government investment did not exist. We have the responsibility to ensure drug prices are not inflicting further pain on COVID-19 patients, and we can do that by making these principles a reality.”

“An unaffordable coronavirus drug is 100% ineffective,” said Congressman Doggett. “No further emergency legislation should be approved without ensuring affordable access to drugs and vaccines, for which taxpayers have already funded billions in research and development. And to meet the global public health need, none of these drugs should be subject to exclusive licenses. Until Congress demands limitations, pharmaceutical manufacturers will remain the leading coronavirus profiteers.”

After the call, Margarida Jorge, national campaign director for Lower Drug Prices Now, released this statement: “Congress needs to take immediate action to ensure the pharmaceutical corporations charged with developing treatments for coronavirus won’t be able to price gouge patients for life-saving medicines, said  Coronavirus treatments and vaccines being developed using taxpayer dollars must be provided at no cost to Americans. The healthcare, grocery, and delivery workers risking their lives on the front line should never have to choose between paying rent or paying for medicine. Congress must stop Big Pharma profiteering off the pandemic by blocking drug corporation monopolies, setting conditions on pricing, and requiring the Trump Administration to disclose how much taxpayer money they’re giving to the drug corporations through secret contracts.”