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“Pure and deadly greed”: Lawmakers slam Pfizer’s 400% price hike on COVID shots

by Ozva Admin
“Pure and deadly greed”: Lawmakers slam Pfizer’s 400% price hike on COVID shots
A man in an open-necked suit addresses a woman in a matching chair.
Enlarge / Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla speaks onstage at the 2022 SXSW Conference at the JW Marriott Austin on March 14, 2022 in Austin.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senator-elect Peter Welch (D-Vt.) sent a scathing letter Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla this week about the company’s plan to increase the price of its COVID-19 vaccines by 400 percent next year when it enters the commercial market.

“We urge you to back down from the proposed price increases and ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are reasonably priced and accessible to people across the United States,” they wrote, while requesting information on the revenue and profit of the company.

In October, Pfizer revealed plans to sell its COVID-19 vaccine for between $110 and $130 next year. More recently, the US government paid only about $30 per dose.

The planned price increase is higher than the $50 price point that some financial analysts expected Pfizer to set upon entering the commercial market. That’s a whopping 10,000 percent markup on the estimated cost of manufacturing the vaccine.

Warren and Welch called Pfizer’s price gouging “pure and deadly greed” and accused the company of “unseemly profiteering.” They noted that before Pfizer raked in billions in profit during the pandemic, it benefited from federal support, including building its vaccine from pivotal research conducted at the National Institutes of Health, as well as receiving an advance purchase agreement. of $1.95 billion through the government’s Operation Warp Speed.

At risk

“Thanks to the billions of federal dollars used to support the production and delivery of Pfizer’s vaccine product, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is currently free to patients in the United States,” both noted in their letter. According to CDC data, more than 400 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and boosters have been administered in the US, the most of the nearly 658 million doses administered in total. Overall, 80 percent of the US population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

A modeling study published Tuesday estimated that the use of the vaccines between December 2020 and November 2022 saved 3 million American lives and prevented 18.6 million hospitalizations and some 120 million infections. Without vaccines, the death toll from the pandemic would have been four times higher, the study concluded.

“This is a landmark public health achievement,” Warren and Welch wrote. “But this progress is now at risk due to Pfizer’s greed.” They argue that the price increase could put the vaccine out of reach for the uninsured and underinsured, “creating deadly risks as the pandemic continues to kill hundreds a day in the United States.” Although Pfizer has suggested that its Patient Assistance Programs could help the uninsured, lawmakers said the programs’ operation and benefits were vague.

At a news event last month, Bourla received criticism for saying the company’s COVID-19 vaccine would remain “free for all Americans” despite the price increase, because health insurance companies would cover the vaccination, resulting in no out-of-pocket costs. However, such increases in health care costs lead to increased insurance premiums, which are deducted from workers’ paychecks. Additionally, Bourla did not address the cost for the uninsured, who currently have free access to vaccines.

In an email to Ars, a Pfizer representative confirmed that the company had received the letter from Warren and Welch, but declined to comment further as it works on its official response to the senators.

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