House Democrats seek information on coronavirus vaccine contracts

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House Democrats are demanding details from the Trump administration about the terms of its contracts with drugmakers to fund the development of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

In a letter to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, the chairs of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis and House Oversight and Reform Committee said they want to know whether the contracts include provisions to ensure the vaccines or therapeutics are affordable.

The CARES Act provided $3.5 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to invest in producing and purchasing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. 

The legislation gave broad authority to the HHS secretary, and BARDA has entered into more than a dozen agreements with private companies, including a $1.2 billion contract with AstraZeneca.

But according to Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of the coronavirus committee, and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Oversight committee, HHS “has shared only limited information to date with Congress and the American people.”

The federal contracts listed online do not disclose the terms, such as the allocation of any intellectual property rights between the government and private companies, the lawmakers said.

“The American taxpayers are investing a massive amount of money into these efforts to identify, develop, and disseminate vaccines and treatments. They expect to earn a fair return on their investments, and the federal government has an obligation to use all tools at its disposal to ensure access for consumers,” Clyburn and Maloney wrote.

The Democrats said they are concerned because the pharmaceutical lobby has declined to provide any assurance that its members would set affordable prices for any federally approved coronavirus vaccines or therapeutics, citing antitrust concerns.

Only Sanofi committed to price any vaccine or treatments “in a fair and reasonable manner” and to “provide a launch price rationale.”

Tags Carolyn Maloney Coronavirus

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