U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Merkley Unveil Plan to Prevent Pharmaceutical Companies from Price Gouging COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments

WASHINGTON, D.C. [08/5/20]—This week U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced legislation to ensure that any taxpayer-funded vaccine or treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19) proven to be safe and effective will be accessible, affordable, and available to all individuals.

The Make Medications Affordable by Preventing Pandemic Price-gouging (MMAPPP) Act would forbid monopolies and exclusive licensing of any taxpayer-funded COVID-19 vaccine or treatment, require reasonably affordable prices for said drugs, improve transparency from drug manufacturers on expenditures related to COVID-19 vaccines or treatments, and prohibit price gouging of drugs used to treat future diseases.

“People in Minnesota and across the country deserve access to taxpayer-funded COVID-19 treatments and vaccines without financial barriers,” said Sen. Smith. “And they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops and cross their fingers to access them. My bill will help prevent big pharmaceutical companies from price gouging and ensure that any taxpayer-funded vaccine or treatment is accessible, affordable, and available to all. I’ll be working to get more support behind this bill. It’s the right and fair thing to do.”

“The only way we’re going to beat the coronavirus is if everyone—regardless of their income, zip code, or the color of their skin—has access to the tools they need to be safe and healthy,” said Sen. Merkley. “Drug companies can’t be allowed to use this deadly pandemic as another opportunity to price-gouge Americans on lifesaving medications—especially not when we, American taxpayers, are funding the research that makes their products possible. We have to put the interests of the American people above pharmaceutical executives’ profits, and require that any coronavirus treatments and vaccines are affordable for all.”

“Since we introduced the MMAPPP Act in the House in June, several pharmaceutical executives have told me directly that they will not commit to affordable pricing for their taxpayer-funded COVID-19 drugs. Today, Moderna revealed that though taxpayers have paid nearly $1 billion to fund 100 percent of their vaccine’s research and development, they intend to charge $32-$37 per dose—nearly double the next highest COVID-19 vaccine price announced so far. Taxpayers should not have to pay twice, and the protections of the MMAPPP Act are more critical than ever,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky.  “I’m grateful to Senators Smith and Merkley for joining me and Representatives Doggett, Rooney, DeLauro, and DeFazio to champion this legislation and ensure that taxpayer-funded COVID-19 drugs will be affordable, accessible, and available to all who need them. The Congress must prohibit pandemic profiteering.”

“The legislative proposal from Sen. Smith prioritizes public health over Big Pharma’s profits. Recognizing that leading candidate vaccines and drug treatments are built on public science and hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, her proposals would ensure that publicly funded treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 are reasonably priced, open to generic competition and available to the world, to prevent medical rationing that could scar a generation. This is about way more than ensuring taxpayers aren’t ripped off, as important as that objective is. Promoting technology sharing and reasonable pricing of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines is a life-and-death matter. Public Citizen thanks Sen. Smith and her colleagues for their leadership and urges immediate passage of the MMAPPP Act,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen.

Specifically, the MMAPPP Act would:

  • Prohibit monopolies and exclusive licensing of taxpayer-funded drugs that are used to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or treat COVID-19 to ensure these drugs are universally and fairly accessible;
  • Require the federal government to mandate reasonably affordable prices for any new, taxpayer-funded drugs used to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or treat COVID-19;
  • Safeguard transparency by requiring manufacturers to publicly report a detailed breakdown of expenditures related to any drug used to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or treat COVID-19, including specifying what percentage of expenditures were sourced from taxpayers; and
  • Prevent price gouging of drugs used to treat future diseases that would cause a public health emergency by waiving exclusive licenses and providing companies reasonable compensation.

In addition to Sens. Smith and Merkley, the MMAPPP Act is cosponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)

The MMAPPP Act is endorsed by Public Citizen; Lower Drug Prices Now; Patients for Affordable Drugs; Families USA; ACT UP Philadelphia; AIDS Healthcare Foundation; the Alliance for Retired Americans; American Federation of Teachers; American Muslim Health Professionals; Americans for Tax Fairness; Arkansas Community Organizations; CASA in Action; Center for Popular Democracy Action; Coalition on Human Needs; Communities United; Congregation of Our Lady of the Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces; Consumer Action; Consumers’ Checkbook/CSS; Equality North Carolina; Faith in Healthcare; Hero Action Fund; Hispanic Federation; Indivisible; Knowledge Ecology International; MomsRising; NASTAD; National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; Oxfam America; Peoples Action; Public Advocacy for Kids; Right to Health; Pandemic Prevention Project; Social Security Works; Treatment Action Group; Young Invincibles; AFL-CIO.

You can read a summary of the bill here.