The waiver on COVID vaccine patents is not about the vaccine

IT’S FRIDAY:  The Biden administration’s decision to support a temporary waiver of Covid-19 vaccine patents prompted instant and false outrage in pharma. Pharma is afraid the move could compromise future drug profits, so they need to fight hard now to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Via the Economist, “We believe that Mr. Biden is wrong. A waiver may signal that his administration cares about the world, but it is at best an empty gesture and at worst a cynical one. A waiver will do nothing to fill the urgent shortfall of doses in 2021. The head of the World Trade Organization, the forum where it will be thrashed out, warns there may be no vote until December. Technology transfer would take six months or so to complete, even if it started today. With the new mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, it may take longer. Supposing the tech transfer was faster than that, experienced vaccine-makers would be unavailable for hire, and makers could not obtain inputs from suppliers whose order books are already bursting. Pfizer’s vaccine requires 280 inputs from suppliers in 19 countries. No firm can recreate that in a hurry”.

I believe that’s a pretty fair summary. The pharma industry has to fight NOW because more battles could be coming down the road. I have written before that if a new drug is developed that can save millions of lives worldwide, the decision of what to charge for such a product is more than an MBA philosophy; it’s a moral decision.

The argument of “we need the money for R&D” isn’t valid anymore, as Rep Porter showed the CEO of AbbVie. Today’s pharma CEO believes in maximizing profits regardless of the effect on patients and healthcare; that’s myopic thinking, and that belief is coming to an end.

A pharma company has a right to profit, but when those profits are so high, and patients can’t afford therapy, something is wrong. I believe that changes are coming to healthcare that patients and pharma aren’t going to like. The current system is unsustainable. The Government will eventually implement drug price negotiations with drug companies. Insurers will charge obese patients more money and will incentivize people to eat healthy and exercise by forming alliances with employers.

At this moment both Pfizer and Moderna are saying we will need booster shots this fall. Is that really true or just a way for them to make more money by scaring us? Various sources have said that the shots we received are good against variants so who are we to believe?

Pharma spends tens of millions of dollars on lobbying while the media writes stories on the high cost of prescription drugs. AbbVie’s CEO looked clueless when he went before Congress on high drug prices, and the public loves to vent their anger. It’s not going to change, but perhaps a smart CEO can prepare their organization for the inevitable changes that are coming.