[Ip-health] Banks Pressure Health Care Firms to Raise Prices Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Baker, Brook b.baker at northeastern.edu
Fri Mar 20 07:28:59 PDT 2020

I think some comment is appropriate.  

First, it should be no surprise that investment banks/groups are even more ruthless in pursuing monopoly/pandemic profits than drug companies and medical product suppliers.  We are so used to focusing on Big Pharma that we sometimes ignore their puppet masters, Big Finance.  

Second, this would be a good time to join the growing chorus of condemnation against stock-buybacks which have reduced reserves for emergency R&D by Big Pharma and have also reduced reserves that might have otherwise been available to pay workers instead of laying them off or to avoid going to government to ask for an emergency handout.  Again, Big Finance is the behind-the-scenes puppet-master on this issue as well.  

Third, interspersed throughout the story is a voice of restraint from Big Pharma, which seems to realize that this pandemic is a golden opportunity to shed it reputation as a ruthless price gouger for its preferred image of as a fast and focused innovator of new life-saving medicines.  PhRMA has been desperately searching for a publicity coup that could take the pressure over the reputation deep-dive it has justifiably earned.  However, we are now in a situation where government and pharma companies are investing in providing efficacy of repurposed medicines and exploring new therapeutics and vaccines, and industry and the US will do everything in their power to burnish Big Pharma's image.  

We can be certain that industry will reap the exclusivities that are most important to them unless we intervene in the contracting process to ensure generic competition and access.  In my opinion, even if Big Pharma regrettably succeeds in securing exclusivities, most companies are likely to exercise some pricing restraint.  At the same time, they will also prioritize meeting the supply demands of the rich and powerful - individuals and governments - first.  

Our job will be to continually point out how broken our monopoly-based R&D incentive system is - a system that failed to investigate drugs for potential pandemic needs; and how stupid it would be to let one company try to monopolize supply - even at potentially restrained prices - when we need to rapidly use all available generic and biosimilar capacity to produce as much medicine as possible as soon as possible so that it can be made equitably available to all in need no matter where they live.  

We can take some solace that a broken system is being partially and belatedly mobilized, but nationalism and economic privilege will still delay accelerated and equitable global access unless we can simultaneously point out the structural neglect and violence of the current system even as we hope it will hurry up.


Professor Brook K. Baker
Northeastern U. School of Law
416 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
Honorary Research Fellow, University of KwaZulu Natal
Health GAP (Global Access Project) Senior Policy Analyst
(w) 617-373-3217
(c) 617-259-0760
b.baker at northeastern.edu
Skype:  brook_baker

On 3/20/20, 4:00 AM, "Ip-health on behalf of Ellen 't Hoen" <ip-health-bounces at lists.keionline.org on behalf of ellenthoen at medicineslawandpolicy.net> wrote:

    No comment.
    Ellen ‘t Hoen LLM, PhD | Medicines Law & Policy
    Tel.: +31 6 37530700
    E-mail: ellenthoen at medicineslawandpolicy.net
    Twitter: @ellenthoen
    Ip-health mailing list
    Ip-health at lists.keionline.org

More information about the Ip-health mailing list