[Ip-health] Boston Globe: Trump should put consumers first in Zika deal

Andrew S. Goldman andrew.goldman at keionline.org
Fri Jun 2 08:48:46 PDT 2017



Trump should put consumers first in Zika deal
MAY 30, 2017

The Trump Administration, led by a president who repeatedly boasts that his
business acumen will bring jobs back to American soil, now seems poised to
strike a deal that will Make France Great Again. Or, more specifically,
enrich the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur by granting an
exclusive license to patents for a Zika vaccine.

There’s no question that a vaccine for the mosquito-borne scourge is
urgently needed. The virus, which can cause severe birth defects and
paralysis, is nothing less than a full-blown global health emergency. Zika
has been reported in 84 countries, according to the World Health
Organization, and is exploding in Puerto Rico, with 40,000 confirmed cases
— and health officials believe that as many as 1 million have been
infected, according to NPR. Some 5,000 US cases were reported in 2016.

Fortunately, a glimmer of hope emerged recently in the lab. Scientists at
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, collaborating with colleagues in
Brazil and at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, reported
promising results in mice that “suggest that the development of a [Zika
virus] vaccine for humans is likely to be achievable.”

Yet any resulting vaccine may end up being too expensive for the millions
who need it, because the exclusive license that the Army is offering does
not build in a requirement for affordable pricing. In an era of soaring
prescription drug costs, patient advocates are skeptical of a deal that
would allow a private company to rake in profits for shareholders from an
invention funded by grants that come from taxpayer dollars. As Ed Silverman
reported in STAT, the government gave Sanofi a $43 million grant, and
another $130 million may follow as part of the Army’s agreement to
codevelop a vaccine.

Slamming the pharmaceutical industry for predatory practices, Senator
Bernie Sanders urged President Trump to negotiate a better deal with Sanofi
to guarantee that the company won’t “gouge American consumers, Medicare and
Medicaid or our military when it sells the vaccine.”

To be sure, government-funded scientists at universities and nonprofits
often need a partner in private industry to supply the R&D firepower
necessary to finally get a drug into the hands of patients. And running
human clinical trials is expensive. But Trump promised more. In March,
after meeting with congressional Democrats to discuss a House bill on drug
prices, Trump tweeted: “I am working on a new system where there will be
competition in the Drug Industry. Pricing for the American people will come
way down!”

The administration could require the Army to add a single sentence in its
licensing agreement with Sanofi to require keeping costs down — especially
in developing nations. Provisions could also be made to require Sanofi to
disclose data on sales. Until that happens, Trump’s promises risk seeming
like so much fake news.

Andrew S. Goldman
Counsel, Policy and Legal Affairs
Knowledge Ecology International
andrew.goldman at keionline.org // www.twitter.com/ASG_KEI
tel.: +1.202.332.2670

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