“In a pandemic the pharmaceutical industry is hailed as a saviour; yet the industry is using the crisis to lock in its problematic, profit-maximising model. Pushing for public money with no-strings-attached, and stronger monopoly patent rules, the industry’s wish-list could restrict access to COVID-19 drugs and vaccines, prolonging the pandemic in the name of profit. Control over prices and access must not be left in private hands: health is a human right.
Corporate Europe Observatory has uncovered dozens of documents via freedom of information requests – including minutes from weekly calls between pharma and the Commission held during the pandemic – which reveal how the industry is putting profit before an effective pandemic response. The pharmaceutical industry initially used its special access to lobby against joint procurement of treatments in Europe, a tool intended to avoid member states competing for drugs and thus driving up prices. It has also used arguments that pit rich countries against each other (whilst leaving the ones with limited resources behind) to win lucrative advance purchase agreements for potential new vaccines, without the needed public interest conditions in place (this is the kind of joint procurement it does want). But the industry’s fear-and-scarcity based arguments – fuelling vaccine nationalism, pushing stricter intellectual property controls – depend on accepting the flawed monopoly-profit model that it is lobbying to protect, and which actually threatens to prolong the pandemic by leaving many countries unable to afford treatments or vaccines.”
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