Public Citizen Urges BARDA to Release Secret Contracts to the Public
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly $6 billion in taxpayer-funded grants have gone to individual pharmaceutical corporations in unpublished contracts to develop and manufacture coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments since the pandemic began, according to a new tracker released today by Public Citizen.
The tracker shows the amount, purpose, date and corporate recipient of each known U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) grant. The top recipients for the grants include Moderna, which received $483 million to manufacture a vaccine jointly developed by federal scientists. The largest single award, for $1.6 billion, went to Novavax, a little-known Maryland firm.
Public Citizen also found that vaccine development and administration accounted for more than 70% of taxpayer dollars (about $4.2 billion) awarded during the pandemic so far by BARDA compared to 16% for treatments ($946 million) and less than 1% for tests ($44 million).
BARDA has not published these taxpayer-funded contracts or the contractual requirements. However, heavily redacted contracts obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests in July found that the U.S. government had foregone a standard authority to help protect the public interest, by authorizing generic competition to promote reasonable pricing and to meet public health needs. Little else is known about what conditions the government has attached to BARDA contracts or how awardees for these taxpayer funds are selected and held accountable.
Public Citizen has continuously called on BARDA to publish these contracts.
“We don’t know if anything at all is being done to prevent profiteering or what measures our government is taking to ensure adequate supplies of tests, treatments and vaccines,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program.
“The stakes are massive,” said Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher at Public Citizen, who compiled the tracker. “If the U.S. government does not impose basic conditions on corporations receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, people worldwide may die from rationing and needless delay.”
Public Citizen will continue to update the tracker as BARDA awards additional grants related to COVID-19.
The tracker is available here.