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New Jersey Leaders, Rev. Dr. William Barber II Join Johnson & Johnson Accountability Town Hall to say No to Pandemic Profiteering

Thursday, April 23, 2020

New Jersey — Today, Lower Drug Prices Now coalition partners Health Care Voter, New Jersey Citizen Action, and New Jersey Organizing Project joined together to tell Johnson & Johnson not to profiteer off of the coronavirus pandemic.

The town hall featured Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, policy advisor for Doctors Without Borders Sharonann Lynch, parent advocate Eileen Palazza, secretary-treasurer of Health Professionals and Allied Employees Alexis Rean-Walker, Bart Rutherford of Health Care Voter, and executive director of Unitarian Universalist Faith Action NJ and COVID-19 survivor Rev. Rob Gregson. Maura Collinsgru of New Jersey Citizen Action moderated the conversation on behalf of the Lower Drug Prices Now coalition.

Some highlights from the town hall below:

“Pandemics are just not biological issues. They are also sociological realities because they exploit and live and breathe in the wounds of society — the wounds caused by the criminalization of poverty, the wounds caused by systematic structural racial inequity,”said Rev. Dr. William Barber II. “So, before we ever had a pandemic, 140 million people were living in poverty and they were virtually being ignored.”

“We are in the midst of an immense global crisis, and it’s critically important that companies like J&J do the right thing,” said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. “Right now, people need help. People need protective gear and access to affordable medicine and access to a universally available and affordable vaccine.”

“In an industry filled with bad actors, Johnson & Johnson is near the top of the list. History has shown that they will do everything possible to exploit this crisis to line their own pockets,” said Lower Drug Prices Now National Campaign Director Margarida Jorge. “If Congress fails to act, and soon, Johnson & Johnson will use the millions of dollars of taxpayer money they have received to advance treatments for coronavirus to get a monopoly on the vaccine and seek to profiteer from this crisis.”

“J&J is promising a non-profit price for its future vaccine that it hopes to develop, and we hope that it can deliver,” said Sharonann Lynch, Policy Advisor, Access to Medicines Campaign. “But, how do we know it won’t be a lie? Will J&J be transparent? Will they be forthcoming in terms of cost of manufacturing? We won’t know the truth until we have those books being open.”

“I am here to be a voice for my son, Ryan. I am here to be the voice of the 72,000 other people — yes, 72,000 for the year of 2018 alone — who succumbed to the ravenous disease of opioid addiction. Our country is losing the war against the overdose crisis,” said Eileen Palazza, Parent Advocate. “There is no letter sent from the head of government stating, ‘We are sorry for your loss.’ There is nothing. Nothing but the headache of losing a child, or a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, an aunt, or an uncle who has died in this war.”

“It took the Trump administration months to start real testing and we still don’t have what we need. He still hasn’t taken necessary steps to be sure that health care workers have the equipment they need or that we have enough hospital beds to take care of people when they are sick,” said Alexis Rean-Walker, Secretary-Treasurer, Health Professionals and Allied Employees. “Nothing our members are being asked to do right now is in line with what we’ve been taught. We are so far past best practices that some members have been told to use a scarf to cover their faces because it’s better than nothing. This is unsafe, unacceptable, and is definitely preventable.”

“Whatever Big Pharma gets out a vaccine first, we have to be among those saying, this cannot be just for one nation or particularly one demographic,” said Rev. Rob Gregson, COVID-19 Survivor and Executive Director of Unitarian. “This has to be for everyone. That means that ten dollars a vaccine, which to me doesn’t seem so bad, is too much. That is a day’s wages for far too many people.”

“Johnson and Johnson and big pharmaceutical companies have been dictating prices for decades, raking in massive profits while millions of Americans struggled to afford life-saving drugs,” said Maura Collinsgru of New Jersey Citizen Action. “That era of profiteering needs to end with the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress must act to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine and all other life-saving drugs are available to Americans, regardless of how much money they make, where they live, or the color of their skin. The American people demand and deserve no less.”

“In the wake of this pandemic, big drug corporations — some based in New Jersey like J&J — are receiving billions in public funding through the recent relief packages in Congress,” said Bart Rutherford, Health Care Voter. “Meanwhile, Americans have received no guarantees from the Trump Administration that the medicines and vaccines, Big Pharma corporations like Johnson & Johnson, will develop with taxpayer money will be affordable to the millions who need them.”



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