AHF to U.S. Gov’t: Grow a Backbone and ‘March-In’ to Guarantee Access to COVID Vaccines and Treatments

In Featured, News by Ged Kenslea

WASHINGTON (July 14, 2020) In reaction to the dodgy deals that the drug industry is concocting to profit from the COVID 19 pandemic, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today called on the U.S. government today to use its patent and “march-in” rights under section 1498 of the U.S. code.


The Bayh-Dole Act allows the U.S. government to march in and tell a drug company what it can charge for medicine needed to address an urgent public health emergency.  In 2001, during the anthrax scare which could have put thousands of lives at risk in the U.S. Capitol building, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department told the drug company that produced the antibiotic to counteract anthrax that if it didn’t agree to sell the government the drug at a fair price it would exercise its “march-in” rights under Section 1498 of the Bayh-Dole Act. The drug company, Bayer, dropped the price.


“Have we reached that point yet in our global response to the COVID pandemic?” asked Michael Weinstein, president of AHF.  “Already the U.S. taxpayer has subsidized $4 billion in research and development costs for a potential COVID 19 vaccine. It has given $1.5 billion to two drug companies, Aztra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson. It has pumped $1.6 billion into drug company Novavax for vaccine development. Meanwhile Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is back-tracking on a pledge that it would produce a vaccine on a nonprofit basis. In many cases, the U.S. government already co-owns patents on the drugs needed to fight COVID. Add to that, some drug companies are crafting secret sweetheart deals with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority exempting them from the government using march-in rights.”


“Public taxpayers are taking most of the financial risks connected to drug and vaccine development and the drug companies want to keep all the profit.  People all over the world are dying while the drug industry takes billions and then uses legal trickery to line its pockets. We look for the U.S. government to grow a backbone and use our laws to protect people and not profits,” said John Hassell, national director of advocacy for AHF.

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