The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will help fund efforts by Janssen — a drug company owned by Johnson & Johnson — to create a coronavirus vaccine and treatment. HHS is also partnering with French drugmaker Sanofi to produce a potential coronavirus vaccine.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) led 45 House Democrats in warning that HHS should not give an exclusive license to any private manufacturer or risk making the vaccines or treatments unaffordable.
“Providing exclusive monopoly rights could result in an expensive medicine that is inaccessible, wasting public resources and putting public health at risk in the United States and around the globe,” the lawmakers wrote.
“If HHS or any other federal agency moves forward with such a proposal, we urge you to instead issue a limited license and implement requirements that a vaccine or treatment be made available at an affordable price.”
The efforts are in the early stages, and it could take years for a vaccine to be available to the public.
“Americans deserve to know that they will benefit from the fruits of their public investments,” the lawmakers wrote.
“That goal cannot be met if pharmaceutical corporations are given authority to set prices and determine distribution, putting profit-making interests ahead of public health priorities.”
But the concern from House Democrats comes as lawmakers increase their scrutiny of drugmakers over rising prescription costs.
“You have repeatedly called for action to lower drug prices and know that unjustifiably high drug prices are one of the most pressing public health concerns we face today,” the lawmakers wrote to Trump.
“We should not grant any manufacturer a blank check to monopolize a coronavirus vaccine or treatment developed with public, taxpayer support.