Schakowky, Doggett, DeLauro, DeFazio, Introduce Bill to Protect Americans from Expensive COVID-19 Treatments and Vaccines

January 28, 2021
Press Release

EVANSTON - Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee; Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee; Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee; and, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reintroduced legislation to strengthen oversight of federal funds invested in COVID-19 research and development, and to protect patients from being price-gouged on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines developed with taxpayer dollars.

The Pandemic Treatment Access and Affordability Act of 2021, sponsored by Congresswoman Schakowsky, establishes comprehensive protections against price gouging for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines by:

  • Prohibiting pharmaceutical monopolies on new, taxpayer-funded COVID-19 drugs in order to ensure universal access to these drugs;
  • Requiring the federal government to mandate reasonable, affordable pricing of any new, taxpayer-funded COVID-19 drug used to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or treat COVID-19
  • Ensuring transparency and requiring manufacturers to publicly report a specific breakdown of total expenditures on any COVID-19 drug, including what percentage of those expenditures were derived from federal funds; and
  • Preventing excessive pricing of drug used to treat any disease that causes a public health emergency by waiving exclusive licenses and compensating with a reasonable royalty.

“We have good reason to be skeptical about the role of the pharmaceutical industry. Well before this pandemic, we saw price gouging and product hopping that cost lives. Now, during a global health crisis, many pharmaceutical companies will see another opportunity to benefit themselves by ‘pandemic profiteering.’ That cannot stand,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky. “I am proud to introduce this bill to ensure that taxpayer-funded COVID-19 drugs and treatments will be affordable, accessible, and available to all who need them – not just the wealthy and privileged. Congress must guarantee affordable COVID-19 drugs, eliminate monopolies on these drugs, and ensure transparency for taxpayers who developed them.”

“The Pandemic Treatment Access and Affordability Act seeks universal access through fair pricing and open licensing of critical drugs,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett. “I am pleased to see it follows an approach similar to what I have offered.  The Trump pandemic approach has basically been to give pharmaceutical manufacturers a blank check written on taxpayer funds while failing to develop any effective national plan for vaccine distribution and testing.  In one secret Trump deal after another, taxpayers were compelled to be the angel investors financing research, development, manufacturing, and distribution, but without being provided a financial interest in the resulting vaccines and treatments.  We have been guaranteed neither reasonable prices nor assurance that these products could be made in necessary quantities by other manufacturers.  Operation Warp Speed has indeed been warped."

“Taxpayer dollars helped fund the research and development of the coronavirus vaccine and other COVID-19 drugs and treatments,” states Rep. Rosa DeLauro. Pharmaceutical companies should not have the ability to make these drugs inaccessible or turn them into money-making tools, prolonging the pandemic. As Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, I am tasked with safeguarding our federal investments and ensuring that public health takes precedent over the profits of drug companies. I am proud to join my colleagues, Representatives Schakowsky, Doggett, Rooney, and DeFazio, in reintroducing this legislation to protect families from pandemic profiteers.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, it’s more important than ever that treatments and vaccines are affordable and accessible to all Americans,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “It’s outrageous that there is no adequate law to prevent drug companies from reaping massive profits with drugs developed on the taxpayer’s dime, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our legislation will close the ridiculous loophole that allows for this blatant price-gouging on prescription drugs and other treatments developed by taxpayer-funded research.”

The Pandemic Treatment Access and Affordability Act is endorsed by Patients for Affordable Drugs, Social Security Works, and Public Citizen.

“The evidence is clear – unless Congress acts to prioritize the health of Americans and stop pandemic profiteering, Big Pharma will continue to rake in profits by setting unreasonable prices on taxpayer-funded COVID treatments and vaccines,” said David Mitchell, Founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs Now. “On behalf of patients, we are grateful to Representatives Schakowsky, Doggett, DeLauro, and DeFazio for their leadership on this bill.”

“Taxpayers have spent billions on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. These medications belong to the people, not to greedy pharmaceutical corporations,” states Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works. “Congress should pass the Pandemic Treatment Access and Affordability Act immediately and stop pharma from price gouging us on the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments that we paid for.”

“Recognizing that U.S. government scientists and billions of Federal dollars have driven the development of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, Rep. Schakowksy’s legislation, The Pandemic Treatment Access and Affordability Act, would ensure that these medicines are affordable and accessible,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “Public Citizen thanks Rep. Schakowsky for her leadership and urges Congress to pass these bills without delay.”

“Equal and easy access to vaccines, treatments and therapeutics used to combat COVID-19 is the best and quickest way to defeat this pandemic,” said Margarida Jorge, national campaign director for Lower Drug Prices Now. "The Pandemic Treatment Access and Affordability Act is a long-overdue step toward ensuring affordability for every patient, and accountability for every drug corporation that price-gouges for medicines developed with our taxpayer dollars. With COVID infections soaring, new strains of the disease emerging and millions of Americans losing jobs and healthcare, we cannot afford another year of shameless profiteering. This bill gives Congress the power to block drug corporations' monopoly control over prices to ensure that when faced with a public health crisis, Americans can afford the medicines they need to take care of themselves and their families. We’ve had enough of Big Pharma’s business as usual: it’s time to rewrite the rules so everyone can afford prescription medicines.”

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