January 11, 2021 Blogs

Big Pharma Wants Our Gratitude For Developing COVID-19 Vaccines. They Should Be Thanking Us.


Big Pharma is begging for love. Multinational drug corporations want us to give them credit and thanks for the COVID-19 vaccines they are working to bring to market. They want us to overlook the fact that funding from American taxpayers has provided the lion’s share of the money to develop these vaccines. They hope we see them as selfless servants of the public good and won’t notice that they are already cashing in by selling hundreds of millions of dollars in stock and stand to make billions more on the backs of our investment.

Fact is — they should be thanking us. Taxpayers paved the way for them with early research, took on the risks, and are funding production and distribution of the vaccines we desperately need.

Several years back when the big drug companies were unwilling to invest their own money in technology that is leading to some of the most promising vaccines today, the U.S. government did. Here’s how the biopharmaceutical industry publication BioCentury explains it:

“The Defense Research Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) has taken risks where others wouldn’t. Its pursuit of high-risk, high-reward technologies, combined with its mission-driven approach to managing projects is promising to pay off in the fight against COVID-19.

“DARPA was behind the creation of DNA and RNA vaccines, funding early R&D by Moderna Inc. and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. at a time when the technologies were considered speculative by many scientists and investors.”

Kaiser Health News reports that government funding through a trio of taxpayer-supported entities has been key to both early research and late-stage trials, accelerating the entire process to develop COVID-19 vaccines: 

“Basic research conducted…at the National Institutes of Health, Defense Department, and federally funded academic laboratories has been the essential ingredient in the rapid development of vaccines in response to COVID-19. The government has poured an additional $10.5 billion into vaccine companies since the pandemic began to accelerate the delivery of their products.”

The result of all of that early taxpayer investment, according to  The New York Times:

“A new method of developing vaccines was already waiting to be tested…The government was willing to spend whatever it took, eliminating financial risks and… allowing mass production to begin even before trials were done.” 

One noted industry expert, Jack Scannell, summed it up this way:

“Before we pat the drug industry on the back too much, one has to recognize it got involved in this partly because the whole thing has been de-risked by government.”

So we paid for basic and clinical research, eliminated the risks, financed production and distribution — and now analysts predict the drug corporations will realize $40 billion in revenue from vaccines in 2021 alone, with windfall profits running as high as 50 to 60 percent.  

But even before these corporations start collecting on sales of our vaccines, their executives are cashing in on the crisis by selling stock inflated by our investments. “Execs in charge of companies working on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines have raked in more than $1 billion by selling stock,” a Business Insider investigation found.

Think of it — these drug corporation execs pocketed more than $1 billion based on our taxpayer investment before they administered a single dose to the public. True to historic form, they are profiteering on the pandemic.

So when you watch the ads from drug corporations taking credit for COVID-19 vaccines…when you hear their CEOs who are pocketing millions…when you see their highly paid lobbyists who run their trade associations — remember, they’ve got it backwards. Their ads and statements should simply say, “Thanks, American taxpayers. Thanks for the opportunity to use our machinery to make billions of dollars with virtually no risk.”

After all, it’s their job. As one analyst put it: “If they’re not throwing everything they’ve got at this, then why are they a pharmaceutical company?”

And to all those drug corporations and executives making billions from those of us paying the bills, you’re welcome.


Patients For Affordable Drugs is the only independent national patient organization focused exclusively on achieving policy changes to lower the price of prescription drugs.