To listen to the press conference, click: Audio recording (speaking begins at 3:30 mark) of the press conference
(Des Moines, Iowa, March 18, 2020) — We hear a lot from national sources about the continuing needs, concerns and spread of the COVID-19 virus. Today we heard from real Iowans representing Iowa government, small business, healthcare, and senior communities about the effects in Iowa.
Each of these Iowans joined together in an appeal to Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley to immediately support making any future coronavirus vaccine and treatments affordable and accessible to everyone. They called on President Trump and HHS Secretary Azar to take official action by blocking monopoly control of prices on taxpayer-funded vaccines and treatments.
Reports of people trying to profit from the COVID-19 epidemic by hoarding and reselling face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for many times more than they are worth have outraged American public. However, the fear that Big Pharma will do the same thing: use the current pandemic to profiteer on a coronavirus vaccine or treatment without any check from government officials is real. Speakers today called on elected leaders to reject Big Pharma “business as usual” by refusing to grant monopoly power to any corporation to set the price of vaccines or treatment during this unprecedented national health crisis.
Sue Dinsdale, executive director of Iowa Citizen Action Network, a state-wide grassroots public interest organization committed to creating social change and the state director of Iowa Lower Drug Prices Now:
“Right now, researchers and scientists, largely funded by tax dollars, are working day and night to find a vaccine and treatments for the new coronavirus. More than $700 million has already been spent on research from previous outbreaks, so we already have a head start on a medicine that will prevent the spread of COVID-19. “
“We not only need to invest taxpayer money to fight COVID-19, we need to ensure that investment results in a vaccine and treatments affordable and accessible to everyone. That means we can’t just rely on Big Pharma’s business as usual model in which we turn over taxpayer funded research to drug companies with no strings attached and give them monopoly power to set whatever price they want for medicines.”
Doug Bailey, Hamilton County Supervisor from Webster City, Iowa:
“As a county supervisor we, along with our staff, are on the frontline and are already seeing the devastating effects of COVID-19 in our community. We’ve known for years that drug corporations don’t prioritize public health. The last thing we need to worry about right now is what will happen if we turn over monopoly control of coronavirus medicines to any drug corporations.”
“We need affordable testing and treatment. Price gouging gets in the way of our rural hospitals, public health systems and mental health offices serving patients in need. Our county health services must be made whole. Many of these agencies are funded with property tax dollars and during this crisis we are putting an even deeper burden on that system. Our tax-payer dollars are used to research and develop treatments and here in my county we need to be assured that not only testing, but vaccines and treatments are accessible and affordable for all of us. The time is now to take action. Our concern is for our citizens, not profits for drug companies.”
Dr. Selden Spencer, a neurologist with McFarland Clinic, Iowa’s largest physician-owned multi-specialty clinic headquartered in Ames:
“As a physician, I have a full understanding of how our healthcare system works – the good and the bad. I have seen firsthand how drug corporations use their unfettered monopoly power to set drug prices sky high, putting them out of reach for too many patients. I’ve seen the widespread impact of their business scheme: higher costs of hospital stays and insurance rates. Drug prices are the biggest driver in health care costs.”
“This is totally at odds with what we urgently need now: a vaccine that is affordable and accessible to every single Iowan. You don’t have to be a physician to know that in order for a vaccine or treatment to be effective, everyone needs to have access: vaccines and medicines can’t work if patients can’t afford them.”
Kay Pence, vice president of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans and resident of Eldridge, Iowa:
“There’s a lot that health experts around the world don’t know about the coronavirus. But one thing they know for sure is that seniors and people with underlying health conditions are at the highest risk of serious illness because of COVID-19. This is a frightening time for older Americans like me.”
“Two weeks ago, a group of seniors and I went to Sen. Joni Ernst’s office with a simple question: Will you support a guarantee that COVID-19 drugs will be affordable to everyone? The senator’s staff couldn’t answer our question and said they would get back to us. We are still waiting.”
ReShonda Young, a small business owner in Waterloo and member of the Iowa Main Street Alliance:
“As a small business owner and entrepreneur, I understand the fundamental principle of serving my customers well. The business owners I talk to are making sacrifices just to survive. But the giant drug corporations aren’t sacrificing, they are looking to make big profits off the pandemic. If any drug corporation gets monopoly control on a vaccine or treatment for COVID19, there’s no guarantee that the rest of us will be able to afford medicine.”
“My message for President Trump and Alex Azar: Do not hand over our public research to Big Pharma so they can sell it back to us. And to Senators Ernst and Grassley, your job is to represent small businesses in Iowa, not the big drug corporations. Do your job: make sure that medicine is affordable – don’t give Big Pharma the power to make decisions on COVID-19 drug pricing. In times like this, we all have to pull together and help one another.”