The Congress is working toward a $7.5 billion emergency spending package for the COVID-19 response, but there's a hurdle: Republicans who don't like language in it that would keep drug companies from price gouging on vaccines and treatments.
Republicans Holding Up Emergency Coronavirus Spending To Protect Drug Company Price Gouging
Meeting between White House Coronavirus Task Force and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 2, 2020.Credit: Getty Images
March 3, 2020

The Congress is working toward a $7.5 billion emergency spending package for the COVID-19 response, and it was supposed to have been made public early Tuesday. It provides additional funding to the Department of Health and Human Services for programs within its agencies; funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health for vaccine development, medical supplies, and equipment; and aid to states and local governments. But there's a hurdle: Republicans who don't like language in it that would keep drug companies from price gouging on vaccines and treatments.

"Democrats want the supplemental to include significant funding for the federal government to purchase large quantities of coronavirus diagnostics, treatments and vaccine [when it becomes available], which will then be made available to the public without cost," a Democratic aide told Roll Call. The government did this in 2009 during the swine flu outbreak. Democrats are also pushing language to ensure that "fair and reasonable price" standards that are included in existing contracting regulations are vigorously applied to drug companies supplying the eventual vaccine and treatments to the government. Republicans, however, want people to have to pay up.

Roll Call reports that Republicans "are raising concerns that Democrats' proposals would chill research and development and interfere with the development of a vaccine, according to sources who spoke without being identified so they could talk freely." Apparently the only way the drug industry will do the right thing and try to save lives is if it can profit. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug company official himself, said essentially that at a House hearing on the issue last week: "We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can't control that price because we need the private sector to invest."

Lord help us if we ever have to fight a world war with this team. They'll be more worried about defense contractors getting paid than about protecting the population. What am I saying? That's exactly what's happening now!

Published with permission from Daily Kos

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