[Ip-health] Financial Times: Vaccine contracts shrouded in secrecy despite massive public funding

James Love james.love at keionline.org
Mon Nov 23 08:49:16 PST 2020

Donatoa Paolo Manchini from the Financial Times reporting on the lack of
transparency around the COVID contracts.   I am including a significant
amount of the story, which is behind a paywall, given the public interest
in this issue.  The FT story focuses a good deal on the secrecy around the
EU contracts.  Among the policy issues hidden in the contracts are those
relating to liability, pricing, access and the ownership of know-how and
rights in inventions and data.

Stella Kyriakides, the Commissions for EU health and food safety, is saying
"some contractual information may be made available to selected MEPs."   Yannis
Natsis is quoted questioning  "how much and what sort of information will
be redacted”" once there is any disclosure of the contracts.   Kathryn
Ardizzone and I are quoted from KEI.  Thomas Cueni, the head of the IFPMA
is given the last word, downplaying the importance of seeing the



Vaccine contracts shrouded in secrecy despite massive public funding |
Financial Times

Campaign groups and some politicians argue more information should be
Despite the vast sums of public money spent on vaccine procurement, little
information on the terms of the deals has been released

by Donato Paolo Mancini in London

Earlier this year, Sandra Gallina, the Italian bureaucrat in charge of
buying coronavirus vaccines for the EU, appeared in front of the European
parliament, invited by MEPs clamouring for greater transparency on the
bloc’s confidential procurement contracts with drug developers.

“I fully take on board this criticism,” Ms Gallina said in September as she
deflected attacks on what some have condemned as an overly opaque process,
given the money and number of lives at stake.

“It is only through dialogue and the explanations that we can really give
the correct image of what we’re doing,” she said. But two months on, still
very little is known about the terms of the vaccine contracts the EU has
signed with pharma groups including AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech,
Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline and CureVac. Drug procurement contracts are always
confidential and companies rarely disclose commercial information. But
given the unprecedented levels of public investment in the development of
Covid-19 vaccines, civil society groups and some politicians have argued
that an exception should have been made and more information made public.

“It’s a culture of non-transparency,” said Jamie Love, the head of US-based
advocacy group Knowledge Ecology International (KEI). “It’s particularly
frustrating with Covid because of the massive public interest and the
amount of money involved.”

“Once [secrecy is] peeled away, what you see is a massive privatisation of
billions of dollars of government funds,” he added.

. . . [snip]

No organisation has published a full contractual agreement, and detailed
accounts of the negotiations are few.


The official said EU contracts with Boston-based Moderna and Maryland-
headquartered Novavax were still being negotiated. American companies had
been more likely to use external law firms to negotiate stickier points,
particularly around liability, according to the official, making them
harder to deal with. “The problem is the lawyers, the lawyers,” the
official said. “And they don’t have a clue when they come in. The
commission’s lawyers deal with them and I only hear them suffering.”


In September at the European parliament, Ms Gallina said she had stood firm
against pressure from pharmaceutical companies to waive their usual
liability given the accelerated research and development timeline. “The
product liability directive has not been touched,” she said. “We would not
be so mad as to change such a system.” But concerns surrounding corporate
liability have remained points of contention and held up the announcement
this month of a 300m dose contract between the EU and Pfizer-BioNTech,
people familiar with the matter said. The deal should have been announced
on November 9 when the vaccine’s positive trial results were released, but
was delayed for three days until those issues were resolved, the people
said. Pfizer, BioNTech and the commission declined to comment.


Stella Kyriakides, the health and food safety commissioner, this month said
the commission was considering making information about contracts available
to selected MEPs “with specific arrangements” once negotiations were over.
Ms Kyriakides “fully recognised” the importance of transparency but said
the commission could not unilaterally release the contracts, adding that
disclosures could also weaken its negotiating position.

Yannis Natsis, a policy adviser at the European Public Health Alliance and
a board member at the European Medicines Agency, welcomed the move but said
the “devil is in the detail”. “It should be a step towards meaningful
transparency and not a box-ticking exercise,” he said. “This will depend on
how much and what sort of information will be redacted.”

In the US, Kathryn Ardizzone, KEI’s legal counsel, said the government had
tended to be even less transparent than the manufacturers, redacting even
more information on documents released under the Freedom of Information Act
than View some of the heavily redacted US government Covid- 19 contracts
requested under the Freedom of Information Act by Knowledge Ecology
International companies had.

The US has spent more than $10bn to support the development of potential
drugs and vaccines to fight coronavirus. Greater transparency would ensure,
among other things, that the vaccine technology developed with public money
could be used in future applications, KEI’s Mr Love said.

Thomas Cueni, head of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical
Manufacturers and Associations, a lobby group, argued that transparency was
vital for clinical trials but that releasing confidential contractual
information would not be “very helpful”.


Additional reporting by Joe Miller in Frankfurt

James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
U.S. Mobile +1.202.361.3040
U.S. office phone +1.202.332.2670
http://www.keionline.org <http://www.keionline.org/donate.html>

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