Sen. Warren presses PhRMA foyer group on efforts to dam vaccine patent waivers

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Holds a press conference outside of the Capitol on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 to reinstate the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act.

Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren urges the CEO of a major pharmaceutical trading group to lobby against a proposal to abandon intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, which would help boost vaccine production for poorer nations.

Warren and other lawmakers asked in a letter sent to PhRMA CEO Stephen Ubl on Wednesday how much money Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and its member firms have spent this year to stand up against agents of Congress and the White House against renouncing use of CNBC.

The Biden government said in early May that it would support a waiver of the World Trade Organization’s agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, or TRIPs. PhRMA, whose members include Covid vaccine makers AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, is trying to block the waiver.

Removing patent protection for Covid vaccines would allow other pharmaceutical companies to manufacture the life-saving syringes. Drug makers fear that they could set a precedent for future products and end their lucrative monopoly on selling their new drugs.

Warren also asked the trading group about their attempts to block a House Democratic bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with manufacturers on lower drug prices.

“PhRMA and other drug companies have urged the Biden administration to oppose the TRIPS waiver, arguing that doing so would” undermine the global response to the pandemic, “wrote Warren and other lawmakers,” leading to fewer new medicines and treatments lead, “and it defied Medicare Part D price negotiations, the letter said.

“While the pharmaceutical industry has recognized the development of new COVID vaccines – which were developed with massive infusions of federal funds – it has not withdrawn its efforts to block drug price proposals and maintain the status quo,” lawmakers added.

The legislature gave the retail group a deadline of June 30 to comment.

In a statement to CNBC, PhRMA spokesman Brian Newell said the trade group was reviewing the letter.

“We will continue our efforts to work with policymakers on solutions to reduce patient spending on prescription drugs and ensure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

Warren’s letter comes as global groups, including the World Health Organization, are calling on wealthy countries and drug manufacturers to give Covid vaccinations to low and middle income countries, some of which are seeing increasingly worrying spikes in new infections.

Ken Frazier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Merck & Co., from left, Stephen Ubl, Chief Executive Officer of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and Robert Hugin, Chairman of Celgene Corp., arrive for a press conference outside the White House after meeting US President Donald Trump (not pictured) in Washington, DC, the United States, on Tuesday, January 31, 2017.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Many countries and drug manufacturers have committed to distributing millions of doses around the world. President Joe Biden announced last week that his government would donate 500 million doses of vaccine produced by Pfizer to other nations.

The pharmaceutical industry has previously said that not using TRIPS would compromise security, weaken supply chains and create confusion between public and private partners.

In the first three months of this year, drug companies spent a record $ 92 million on lobbying, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan campaign finance research group in Washington. PhRMA spent $ 8.6 million lobbying this year after spending $ 25.9 million in 2020, according to its data.

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