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Government Funds Coronavirus Research While Pharma Sits By

Vaccines and Treatments for Deadly Virus Not Lucrative Under Monopoly Model

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal government has played a vital role in researching and developing new treatments and vaccines for coronaviruses, with little support from the pharmaceutical industry, because of the model under which drugs are developed in the U.S., Public Citizen outlined today in a new report.

The pharmaceutical industry claims that the monopoly-based patent system “is the most effective tool to reward and incentivize innovation,” but the industry has been on the sidelines in coronavirus efforts over the years. A Johnson & Johnson executive even admitted recently that “there is no real incentive to do this, no financial incentive.”

The responsibility of developing new treatments and vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has fallen mostly to the National Institutes of Health, which has spent nearly $700 million on coronavirus research and development (R&D) since the 2002 SARS outbreak, the Public Citizen report found.

Nonprofit and public institutions have supported all six of the pharmaceutical industry’s active coronavirus clinical trials prior to the outbreak and two-thirds of current vaccine and treatment efforts targeting COVID-19, the report found.

“Being truly public health-oriented is disruptive for Big Pharma’s profit margins,” said Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher in Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “The coronavirus outbreak should be a wake-up call. We cannot depend on monopolies to deliver the medicines we need.”

Public Citizen is calling for a new approach to vaccine and drug development that prioritizes public health. The government could increase its R&D work or reward innovation by using alternatives to monopolies. A minimum first step should be to safeguard affordable global access for all federally supported coronavirus treatments and vaccines.

Drawing on the report’s findings, 46 members of Congress, led by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)  sent a letter today to President Donald Trump asking for government-supported coronavirus treatments and vaccines to be reasonably priced.

Read the full report here.