FLASHBACK: Secretary Azar refused to guarantee coronavirus vaccine/treatment affordability: “… we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest…Price controls won’t get us there”

READ: New op-ed from Accountable.US’s Kyle Herrig calling for Sec. Azar to be removed

Washington, DC – Today, Patients Over Pharma released the following statement following the release of the bipartisan compromise coronavirus response legislation, which includes language leaving it up to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure that coronavirus vaccines and treatments on the commercial market are affordable.

“Ensuring that any coronavirus vaccines or treatments are affordable to every single American shouldn’t be left up to the discretion of Big Pharma’s top ally in the Administration,” said Eli Zupnick, spokesman for Patients Over Pharma. “This is just one more reason why Secretary Azar should be removed immediately and replaced with a public health expert who will put patients and public health above the pharmaceutical industry and their profits.”

From Appropriations Committee summary of the legislation: Allows the HHS Secretary to ensure that vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics developed using taxpayer funds be affordable in the commercial market.

Background: Azar’s Big Pharma Ties

Headline: Washington Post: “Trump’s pick to lower drug prices is a former pharma executive who raised them.” [Washington Post, 11/13/17]

Headline: Politico: “Trump’s HHS Secretary Nominee Boosted Drug Prices While At Eli Lilly.” [Politico, 11/14/17]

Eli Lilly Doubled The Price Of Insulin From $123 To $255 Per Vial During The Five Years Azar Served As Company President. “President Trump’s pick for health secretary previously served as a high-ranking executive at a pharmaceutical company that repeatedly raised the prices of its drugs, doubling the U.S. list price of its top-selling insulin over the five years he served as a company president. … While Azar led Eli Lilly’s largest affiliate, Lilly USA, the U.S. list price of Humalog insulin more than doubled, from $123 per vial in Jan. 2012 to $255 per vial when he left the company in early 2017, according to data from Truven Health Analytics. Lilly, along with other insulin makers, was hit by a class-action lawsuit alleging overpricing of insulin earlier this year.” [Washington Post, 11/13/17]

Prices For Drugs For Osteoporosis and Attention Deficit Disorder Doubled Under Azar’s Tenure At Eli Lilly. “Azar stuttered to respond to a series of questions from Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the panel’s top Democrat, who highlighted splashy charts that showed plainly that the prices for an osteoporosis drug, Forteo, and an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug, Strattera, had doubled during Azar’s tenure at Lilly.” [Stat News, 1/9/18]

Under Azar, Eli Lilly Priced Lung Cancer Drug at Over $10,000 A Month. “Eli Lilly & Co. said Friday its new lung-cancer drug will cost about $11,430 a patient a month in the U. S.—well above what a group of doctors say is a fair price that reflects what they call the drug’s modest benefit.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/11/15]

Azar Took In Millions As President Of Eli Lilly A Year Prior To Taking Office As HHS Secretary. “President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of Health and Human Services collected nearly $2 million in compensation during his final year as president of drug giant Eli Lilly’s U.S. operations, new public financial disclosures show. Alex Azar, who left the company in January, also pocketed $1.6 million in severance connected to his departure — and more recently made as much as $1 million from his sale of Eli Lilly stock. Those combined earnings don’t include the more than $700,000 that Azar received in assorted payouts at the end of his tenure, ranging from compensation for unused vacation time to an employer match for his savings plan.” [Politico, 11/20/17]

Additional background

Headline: STAT News: “Lawmakers to Trump: Don’t give ‘monopolies’ to companies that develop coronavirus treatments with taxpayer funds.” [STAT News, 2/20/20]

Forty-Six Members Sent Letter Calling On HHS To Not Issue Exclusive Licensing To Drugmakers Working On Coronavirus Response. “In a letter sent Thursday, 46 members of Congress urged the Department of Health and Human Service not to issue an exclusive license to any drug maker that develops a coronavirus treatment over concerns that ‘providing monopoly rights could result in an expensive medicine that is inaccessible, wasting public resources and putting public health at risk in the U.S. and around the globe.’” [STAT News, 2/20/20]

Member Letter Urged Administration To Enforce Guardrails To Ensure Pharmaceutical Companies Like Regeneron Are Not Allowed To Monopolize Coronavirus Treatment While Maximizing Profits. “The lawmakers pointed to a deal this month between the HHS Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) to develop a treatment for the coronavirus, BARDA agreed to pay 80% of R&D and manufacturing costs, after providing $8.9 million to support development of a treatment for Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS. “There must be guardrails in place to prevent Regeneron from monopolizing the medicine and maximizing profits,” they wrote in the letter, which was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).” [STAT News, 2/20/20]

Pharma Industry Lobbyists Pushed Members To Take Their Names Off Of Letter, Downplay Taxpayer Money Used In Coronavirus Research. “The request riled the drug industry. Pharmaceutical lobbyists tried to get some Democrats to take their names off the letter ahead of its finalization, a person with direct knowledge of the pre-emptive campaign told PULSE, by downplaying the taxpayer funds going toward coronavirus vaccine research and emphasizing the complexities of the drug development process.” [Politico Pulse, 2/20/20]

Patients Over Pharma recently released an updated and expanded version of their BigPharmasBestFriends.org website, which reveals the latest on Trump Administration officials who made millions of dollars from the pharmaceutical industry, the number of pharmaceutical companies and lobbying groups represented in the Trump administration, the revolving door between the Trump Administration and the pharmaceutical industry, and more.


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