Trump giving Big Pharma free rein to price gouge on coronovirus drugs (meds game)

C C Offline

INTRO: Government contracts obtained by consumer advocacy group Knowledge Ecology International show that the Trump administration is giving pharmaceutical companies a green light to charge exorbitant prices for potential coronavirus treatments developed with taxpayer money by refusing to exercise federal authority to constrain costs.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) last week got hold of a number of heavily redacted agreements between the Trump administration and major pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson, Regeneron, and Genentech.

Five of the seven documents reviewed by KEI are classified as "other transaction agreements," which allow federal agencies to loosen regulations designed to protect the public in order to help companies streamline the product development process.

In the case of four contracts for potential Covid-19 treatments or vaccines with Johnson & Johnson, Genentech, Regeneron, and Roche issued by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Pentagon, the Trump administration omitted a standard condition requiring that products developed with taxpayer money be made available to the public "on reasonable terms."

"This means that the government has limited its ability to intervene if the pharmaceutical companies (which are party to the agreements and are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars to conduct the research) charge unreasonable prices for the resulting Covid-19 vaccines or treatments," KEI noted in a press release... (MORE)

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EDIT: Arguably this is "watchdog" concern about or drama over the maintenance of a deterrent threat that has never actually been used. Mutable agreements were desired by HHS because it speeded up the process with Pharma for treating the pandemic, supposedly equipped with alternative safeguards. 

Trump administration makes it easier for drugmakers to profit from publicly funded coronavirus drugs, advocates say: The government has never exercised the authority, called “march-in rights,” and the limits of the power are disputed. But consumer advocates said they believe the mere threat can serve as a check on drug prices, especially in an emergency like the current pandemic.

[...] “Agreements under other transaction authority save time and tax dollars by providing flexibility that is not available in typical federal contracts to purchase material,” the department said. HHS “has been able to enter into partnerships with companies to access entire portfolios of potential products and technologies in the company’s development pipeline. If the science on one potential product doesn’t work out or a new threat emerges, the work can shift quickly to develop a different product candidate in the portfolio to meet the nation’s health security needs.” The statement continued, “HHS always seeks best value to the taxpayer, and when purchasing products that are manufactured with companies’ financial resources, one of the considerations in the price is any federal funding that was provided to develop the product.”
Zinjanthropos Offline
If lives matter and the drug is unaffordable to lower income, disadvantaged minorities etc then will rioting, plundering and murder be a good way to make these drugs more available to all Americans? How ironic would it be for the body count resulting from criminal acts to obtain the drug directly or indirectly, is greater than just having the virus continue on its course?
Syne Offline
First, all the documents I looked at have any funding redacted, so no idea if they're really "receiving hundreds of millions of dollars" in taxpayer money. Second, the government has the ability to stop price gouging, with or without an agreement to do so.
Secular Sanity Offline
From the article…
Quote:According to a 1980 law known as the Bayh-Dole Act, contracts for inventions that stem from federally funded research give the government the right to “march in” and take over the license for a product it helped invent if the company doesn’t make it available at a reasonable price or if taking over the license “is necessary to alleviate health or safety needs.” The law also gives the government a nonexclusive, irrevocable right to practice an invention it helps create without paying royalties.

But that wasn’t the purpose of the Bayh-Dole Act. They say that it’s made substantial contributions to the advancement of scientific and technological knowledge, fostered dramatic improvements in public health and safety, strengthened the higher education system in the United States, served as a catalyst for the development of new domestic industries that have created tens of thousands of new jobs for American citizens, strengthened States and local communities across the country, and benefitted the economic and trade policies of the United States. The NIH has denied several petitions stating that the "march-in" is not an appropriate means of controlling prices of drugs.

Quote:Undermining this certainty by marching into a company’s exclusive license to a federally-funded patent after it has made significant investments to develop and commercialize the product would drive the private sector away from technology transfer agreements under Bayh-Dole, to the detriment of patients, consumers and the economy. SOURCE

Exercising Bayh-Dole march-in rights would handicap Covid-19 innovation

Bayh-Dole Act

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