1 thought on “Coronavirus crisis update

  1. Drug prices are too high. And with a pandemic raging across America, here’s a perfect illustration of how:

    We already paid for COVID-19 treatments—we cannot let Big Pharma make us pay again.

    While there’s much we don’t yet know about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, there’s one thing we know for sure: U.S. taxpayers have already paid for the research and testing of the most promising treatments.

    Taxpayers have spent nearly $700 million on coronavirus research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).1 And big pharma corporations spend more money enriching themselves through stock buybacks than they do on research and development.2

    During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump loved to talk tough on pharma and say he would fight for lower drug prices. But then he put Alex Azar, a Big Pharma executive infamous for doubling the price of insulin, in charge of regulating health care. Several weeks ago, Azar refused to guarantee that a coronavirus vaccine will be affordable for all, citing the need to protect big pharma’s profits.3

    SIGN NOW: Big Pharma must stop price gouging Americans for taxpayer funded drugs!
    SIGN NOW

    One medication currently being tested on coronavirus patients is the antiviral remdesivir. It’s still too early to say if remdesivir will prove broadly effective at helping patients with COVID-19. But if it does end up being a major part of treating the disease, it’s essential to remember who paid for the drug’s development: The American people.

    Remdesivir was developed with research funded by a $37.5 million NIH grant.4 The NIH plans to spend at least an additional $30 million on phase II trials of the medication this year. Since we’ve all paid for remdesivir’s development through our taxpayer dollars, it should be available to everyone who needs it at no cost.

    Instead, the Trump administration granted Gilead, a giant pharmaceutical corporation, “orphan” drug status for remdesivir―a status intended to encourage research and development for rare disease treatments. This status for a pandemic treatment would give Gilead the freedom to charge outrageous prices for the drug, with their government-granted exclusivity ensuring that there will be no competition for years to come.

    Fortunately, public outcry led Gilead to renounce the benefits of orphan designation, but still retains other patents that give them a five-year monopoly on remdesivir.

    This dance goes on over and over again, with drugs of all levels of prominence. We can’t lower drug prices without breaking the iron grip that Big Pharma has on politicians from both parties.

    Taxpayers always fund the riskiest and most crucial research and development. Then, pharma gets the patent monopolies and uses them to charge outrageous prices. American families are going bankrupt paying four- and five-figure prices for drugs that their taxpayer dollars already paid to develop!

    ADD YOUR NAME: End pharma monopolies on taxpayer funded drugs!

    Politicians might be tempted by a short-term solution—requiring all COVID-19 treatments, as well as an eventual vaccine, to be low-cost or cost-free. But that doesn’t go far enough. It does nothing to help the Americans with diabetes who are dying every year because they are forced to ration their outrageously priced insulin. It does nothing for seniors, who will soon be spending half their hard-earned Social Security checks on health care costs.5 And it will do nothing to help patients when the next pandemic comes.

    This includes addressing these problems from the legislation which was just passed, including:

    Both the aid to the unemployed and the one-time payments have disappointing limits that without further change will mean some of the lowest-income people will not get help;

    Roughly 30 million people who normally would not have to file tax returns will now have to file in order to receive federal aid. Without a major outreach campaign, many will not be aware of this requirement, especially during a time of quarantine. Congress should instead have payments added to the regular Social Security, SSI or other benefits that seniors, people with disabilities and low-income people rely on.

    Congress must increase maximum SNAP benefits, which are a fast and effective way of injecting money into the economy.

    The CARES bill strengthens the ability of health care providers to respond to COVID-19. But we have to do more. From free medical treatment to protection against eviction to child care and education, we need to invest in holding the essentials together so we can climb out of this disaster.

    Donald Trump wasn’t prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, but the public health community has been preparing for years. The research we’ve funded is going to be critical in the coming months. We’ve already paid for it. Let’s demand that Congress change the law so that we don’t have to pay again.

    Thanks,

    Alex Lawson

    Drug Prices Are Too High
    1 https://www.citizen.org/article/blind-spot/
    2 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/business/big-pharma-spends-on-share-buybacks-but-rd-not-so-much.html
    3 https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/27/outrage-hhs-chief-azar-refuses-vow-coronavirus-vaccine-will-be-affordable-all-not
    4 https://www.uab.edu/news/health/item/11082-investigational-compound-remdesivir-developed-by-uab-and-nih-researchers-being-used-for-treatment-of-novel-coronavirus
    5 https://www.kff.org/medicare/report/medicare-beneficiaries-out-of-pocket-health-care-spending-as-a-share-of-income-now-and-projections-for-the-future/
    6 https://bit.ly/2xrtGkc

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