Statement from Margarida Jorge, campaign director for Lower Drug Prices Now, on the news that President Biden is expected to announce a partnership between J&J and Merck for vaccine production:
Here is the plain truth: one of the greatest problems facing the vaccine rollout is one policymakers rarely talk about — monopoly patents. Addressing the patent issue will help get more vaccines into more arms quicker. And it is time Washington addresses it.
This partnership with Merck and J&J lays bare what we’ve known all along: there is excess manufacturing capacity in the U.S. and around the world for manufacturing lifesaving vaccines. But instead of doing everything we can to get these vaccines developed using taxpayer dollars into people’s arms as quickly as possible, our elected leaders are choosing to allow a few Big Pharma companies to maintain their monopoly control over these drugs in order to maximize their profits.
The Trump Administration and Congress could have prevented the problem in the first place by refusing to grant exclusive patents for COVID medicines developed with taxpayer funding. But President Biden can still scale up production to meet global demand by using existing authorities. This path would ultimately mean less profits for the corporations that currently hold the patents. But to end the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes, our elected leaders must choose to prioritize the health and economic well-being of people over Big Pharma’s profits.