Pharmaceutical Companies on Covid-19: Profit, Patent, & Population Health

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Why did pharmaceutical companies choose to research, produce, & distribute multiple Covid-19 vaccines instead of a singular non-patented drug? Why, now, are these pharmaceutical companies eventually partnering with their peers only for regional warehousing or local end-to-end supply chain? Why again Bill Gates disapproves of patent access to “poor countries” and Ron Klain acts smart?

In the beginning, the biopharmaceutical and biotechnological companies took it as a challenge to produce their first Covid-19 vaccination instead of considering a singular, non-patented drug that helps build a global immunity shield against all strains of the novel coronavirus. Of course, that helped diversify the market, and consumers chose to pick their brand of the vaccine shot. But somewhere, did it also not turn the Covid-19 vaccination into another e-commerce product?

Big pharmaceutical companies consider the crisis to have another product roll out in the market to harken their brand positioning. Why else, otherwise, the major pharmaceutical companies did not teem up with their peers in the development of a singular Covid-19 vaccine? And now, although there are visible partnerships for regional warehousing or local end-to-end supply chain, they want to patent their vaccine with 95 percent efficacy!

Covid-19 Vaccine: Pharmaceutical Companies & Partners, Governments, & Bill Gates

1. Johnson & Johnson and Merck

By the end of May, Johnson & Johnson hopes to have produced 94 million doses of its single-shot vaccine. President Joe Biden announced that Merck would assist Johnson & Johnson in developing a single-shot coronavirus vaccine, marking an unlikely alliance between bitter rivals. According to sources, Merck will complete this transaction by the second half of the year 2021.

That’s when the threat of variants becomes more serious, hence necessitating booster shots. From fermentation in vats to final finish and filling in vials, the officials are ready to pay Merck $268.8 million. This will lead to upgrading several plants to the appropriate safety standards for Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This year, the company hopes to produce at least 1 billion doses, generating $10 billion in revenue.

2. Pfizer and BioNTech Pharma Giants

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 92 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been distributed throughout the United States. The Comirnaty vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, was the first to obtain an emergency use authorization from the FDA. It was found to be 95 percent safe.

According to the CDC report, it now accounts for more than 46.8 million of the total vaccine doses given in the United States. Comirnaty revenues are split 50-50 with BioNTech, according to Pfizer’s latest earnings report. As per the projections, both the firms are expecting by the end of 2021, the vaccine can generate over $15 billion in sales.

3. Moderna & Sanofi Companionship

As per the New England Journal of Medicine, “The mRNA-1273 vaccine showed 94.1% efficacy at preventing Covid-19 illness, including severe disease. Aside from transient local and systemic reactions, no safety concerns were identified.” The FDA-approved Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine for emergency use accounts for over 44 million doses of the total vaccines distributed in the United States.

In its fourth-quarter earnings report, Moderna stated that it expects $18.4 billion in product revenue from advanced purchased agreements for its vaccine. The company also partnered with Sanofi to “fill/finish sterile manufacturing services and supply packaging for up to 200 million doses of the Moderna Covid-19 Vaccine in the U.S. beginning in September 2021.”

4. Oxford AstraZeneca Global Outreach

The University of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is a collaboration between AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford University. According to The Medical News Today, “The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine uses a chimpanzee common cold, viral vector known as ChAdOx1, which delivers the code that allows our cells to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.”

The UK (£100 million), the EU (up to 400 million), the US (£300 million), and Japan (£120 million) have placed large orders. SVB Leerink analysts predict revenues of $1.9 billion this year and $3 billion in 2022. If Oxford AstraZeneca meets its optimistic goal of 3 billion doses, the 2021 figure may be much higher than expected. Please note that AstraZeneca has also partnered with the Serum Institute of India (SII) to supply the vaccine to India.

5. Indian Pharmaceutical Companies: Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech

For India, the two Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers are the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech, wherein manufacturers expect to profit from the large-scale need for their immunity dose. According to industry experts, the two companies will make 40 to 50 percent EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) margins because they did not incur high R&D costs. Reportedly, it is expected that the Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) will make Rs 1,11,100 crore in profits. 

The fun fact is while bot these manufacturers seem to be working toward a common human crisis, they are at loggerheads with each other. Why? Krishna Ella of Bharat Biotech didn’t have it first, but SII because of its association with Oxford AstraZeneca. According to Ella, none of the firms had any immunogenicity report of 25,000 Indians like his. See the struggle?

6. After Pharmaceutical Companies: Bill Gates & Ron Klain

Yes, given India’s Covid-19 vaccine shortage (blame it on the government or SII or Bharat BioTech), Pfizer offered to ship $70 million worth of drugs to India, including steroids, anticoagulants, and antibiotics. They also sought permission to export raw materials to India. Bill Gates intervened to suggest not allowing any patent information to under/developing countries, including India! An erudite human and philanthropist does have his rationale but certainly a painful one when we look at him as an icon of the progressive. 

Along with Bill Gates, we have the Chief of Staff at the White House, Ron Klain, with a similar mindset. According to the transcript, Klain said, “we are rushing aid to India, we are sending five of those giant C5 planes, which include medicine supplies and the supplies for India to make its vaccines.” But when John Dickerson of CBS News further probed hm on the licensing of the vaccination, Klain said, “U.S. trade representative, Catherine Tai, is going to the WTO next week to start talks on how we can get this vaccine more widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared.”

Now, let’s go back to what Tech Moghul, Big Gates, said to Sky News. “The logic backing the query being that transferring vaccine recipes to developing countries would not only accelerate localized production but also make it possible for poorer nations to inoculate more people with cheaper vaccines.”

Seriously, we cannot be more mesmerized to read “accelerate localized production,” “inoculate more people with cheaper vaccines,” “safety, expertise issue,” etc. It is a hard insinuation toward India and other developing countries. Bill Gates’s take, directly and indirectly, influences the decision-makers at WTO and the pharmaceutical companies we have discussed here. He funds the incompetent government in the majority of countries through grants. He funds startups and businesses worldwide.  

Our quest to understand why pharmaceutical companies did not aim for a singular, non-patented Covid-19 vaccine has come to a rest. Covid-19 is an exclusive opportunity for the pharmaceutical companies to flex their brands, the government to wield authority over poorer countries, and tech moguls like Bill Gates depict his retreating philanthropy. Concerning the divorce he has filed, maybe, he is unsettled. Or maybe too deliberate because Gates has people to gatekeep his emotions. Anyway, let Indians suffer. They have a wily old Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

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