The Trump team gives these 5 Big Pharma price gougers big taxpayer money for COVID-19 vaccines

  • 06/26/2020 11:03 am ET Myles Duffy and Tenásha Ebrahimkhel
Trump's coronavirus task force at a press briefing

Flickr / White House

The COVID pandemic reminds us that we are all human, we can all get sick, and sometimes we all need prescription medications to feel better and take care of our families.

But for Big Pharma and all their friends in the Trump Administration, today’s crisis is just another chance to price gouge patients trying to stay healthy.

At Lower Drug Prices Now, we have uncovered the five big drug corporations addicted to price gouging and poised to profit off future COVID vaccines. While the Trump Administration is funneling them billions for research through secret contracts and special tax breaks, there is a growing army of people demanding that we hold Big Pharma accountable for inflating their profits at the expense of our health.

Champions like Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) are working on rewriting the law to block any single drug corporation from getting monopoly control to set prices on COVID vaccines. And Rep. Schakowsky’s bill, the MMAPPP Act, already has bipartisan support. If Congress passes it, the new law will require that COVID drugs developed with our tax dollars must be affordable for everyone who needs them.

These five drug corporations are addicted to price gouging. They will not stop overcharging us unless Congress acts now!

5. Pfizer

5 price-gouging drug companies getting taxpayer money from the Trump Administration for COVID-19 vaccines


Pfizer has been increasing the price of its drug, Nitrostat (a heart medication) for years, even raising the price by 56% in one year.

The company benefits big time from taxpayer subsidies, like the estimated $26.5 billion they got from the Trump tax cuts. Now, it’s working on a COVID vaccine. But we can’t trust Pfizer with monopoly control to set the price — or it is unlikely to be affordable.

4. Merck

5 price-gouging drug companies getting taxpayer money from the Trump Administration for COVID-19 vaccines 1

Flickr / Doctor 4U

Merck is a serial price gouger. Just look at their top drugs since 2007:

  • Tripled the price of Januvia to $1,578
  • Tripled the price of Janumet to $473
  • Doubled the price of Isentries to $1,653

Merck set the prices of its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda at over $4,000 per vial. Who can afford that?

And now, Trump Administration gave Merck $38 million from taxpayers to fund research of a COVID vaccine and wants to let Merck set the price. That is why Congress urgently needs to change the law to block any corporations from getting monopoly control to set prices we can’t afford.

3. Johnson & Johnson

5 price-gouging drug companies getting taxpayer money from the Trump Administration for COVID-19 vaccines 2

Flickr / Mike Mozart

Johnson & Johnson has a long record of price gouging, misleading marketing towards communities of color, and opioid peddling.

Last year J&J raised prices on nearly two dozen drugs, including cancer drug Zytiga and blood thinner Xarelto. For years, J&J deceptively marketed baby powder it knew caused cancer to African American families. And J&J developed its own poppy just to profit off of opioids by providing 60% of the raw materials for well-known opioids like OxyContin while hiding behind their squeaky clean “no more tears” image.

The Trump Administration recently shelled out $604 million taxpayer dollars through a secret contract with J&J for COVID-19 drug research. But we cannot trust J&J to set prices on prescription drugs that millions of us will need.

2. Moderna Therapeutics

Medicine Pills


Moderna Therapeutics has not produced or sold a single drug…yet. But that did not stop the Trump Administration from giving them $483 million in one of the largest ever contracts with a single drug corporation.

President Trump tapped a Pharma exec and major Moderna shareholder, Marcel Slaoui to lead ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ the Administration’s program to funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to drug corporations, including…Moderna. Before taking the job, Slaoui did not disclose that he owned $10 million in Moderna stock — a blatant conflict of interest.

He made an additional $2 million on that stock after Moderna pumped up their share price by hyping its potential COVID drug with little data to support its claims. Slaoui sold his stock in Moderna under public pressure but still retains holdings in other drug corporations and biomedical investment firms.

1. AstraZeneca

5 price-gouging drug companies getting taxpayer money from the Trump Administration for COVID-19 vaccines 3


AstraZeneca broke Moderna’s record when they got an even larger contract from the Trump Administration for $1.2 billion in taxpayer dollars for a COVID vaccine. Like all the others, the AstraZeneca contract with the federal government is secret. And like the others on this list, AstraZeneca is no stranger to price gouging.

Faced with a generic competitor to its popular cholesterol drug Crestor, AstraZeneca hiked prices overnight. It is currently facing a lawsuit for fraudulent marketing and offering kickbacks to physicians who prescribed the drug.

We cannot trust AstraZeneca with monopoly control any more than the other drug corporations receiving public money to develop medicines. That is why we need a law — like the one Rep. Schakowsky is pushing — to take away the drug corporations’ power to price-gouge.

These examples prove that we really cannot trust any pharmaceutical corporations with monopoly power to set prices. Now more than ever, we need to put people’s health above corporate profits, and that means Congress needs to take action today to make medicines affordable by limiting Pharma’s monopoly control to charge us whatever price they want.

The only way to beat this pandemic is to make sure the vaccines are affordable for everyone - no matter where they come from, no matter what they look like, no matter what’s in their wallet.

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