POLITICS
03/13/2017 09:49 am ET

Bernie Sanders Warns Against Letting Tax-Funded Zika Research Fatten Wallet Of Big Pharma

A French company could get a monopoly on a vaccine for the virus.

The U.S. Army is several months into clinical human trials for a Zika virus vaccine, and many worry that the government will make a deal with pharmaceutical manufacturers that is ripe for price-gouging. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is among those warning the government not to strike a bad deal with the results of the Army’s more than $1 billion in taxpayer-funded research.

Sanders penned both a New York Times op-ed and a letter to Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, this weekend. The senator urged the Army against giving French pharma company Sanofi the exclusive license to patents on a vaccine.

Read the letter to the Army below.

It’s likely Sanofi will “charge whatever astronomical price it wants for its vaccine” should it have a monopoly, Sanders said. This would mean the vaccine would be unaffordable for millions of people who need it. 

Sanders cited a past example of a lucrative patent giveaway gone wrong: the prostate cancer drug Xtandi.

Like the Zika vaccine, Xtandi was developed using research backed by federal funds. Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer bought the rights to the drug. It wholesales in the U.S. for almost $130,000 ― or almost $9,000 for an individual’s one-month supply ― while wholesale prices in Japan and Sweden are around $39,000 and around $30,000 in Canada. 

“American consumers should not be forced to pay the highest price in the world for a vaccine we paid to help develop,” Sanders wrote in his op-ed. 

Sanofi is among at least 15 companies and entities developing Zika research. The company received $43 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop the vaccine with the Army and is expected to receive at least $130 million more in federal funding, Sanders said. 

In his op-ed, Sanders appealed to President Donald Trump’s own boasts that he is a skilled dealmaker who could work on behalf of the American people. 

“Will the president negotiate a better deal for the taxpayers of this country and our soldiers? Or was the president lying when he claimed he would make only the best deals on behalf of the American people?” Sanders said. “We will soon find out.”

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