Mar 22, 2023

Senate HELP Committee Hearing with Moderna CEO Offers Prime Opportunity to Push Back on Brand Name Drug Company Profiteering Ahead of Shift to Commercial Distribution

Washington, D.C. – The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) released a statement ahead of a Wednesday hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) with Moderna CEO, Stéphane Bancel, titled “Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?” The hearing is set to examine Moderna’s decision to hike the price of its COVID-19 vaccine, branded under the name Spikevax, from a price of around $26 per dose to as much as $130 per dose, as payment shifts from the U.S. Government to the private market.

“Moderna’s decision to hike the price of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine by nearly 500 percent as payment shifts from the federal government to the commercial market represents a brazen attempt by Big Pharma to price gouge patients and the U.S. health care system,” said CSRxP executive director Lauren Aronson. “The price hike is even more egregious considering the vaccine was developed with significant taxpayer investment and that taxpayers have already paid billions of dollars to acquire the medication from Moderna through U.S. government purchases.”

“Unfortunately, Moderna’s price hike is not isolated but part of a larger trend of brand name drug companies increasing prices on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments ahead of a shift in payment to the commercial market,” Aronson continued. “We encourage lawmakers to capitalize on this prime opportunity to hold Big Pharma accountable for these unconscionable price hikes and push back on brand name drug companies’ profiteering on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.”

Background on Moderna’s Proposed COVID-19 Price Increase

Earlier this year, brand name drug maker Moderna announced plans to hike the price of its COVID-19 vaccine, branded under the name Spikevax, from a price of around $26 per dose to as much as $130 per dose, as payment shifts from the U.S. Government to the private market. Moderna’s proposed price hike would amount to a nearly 500 percent increase on the vaccine despite already receiving billions of dollars from taxpayers to pay for and acquire the shot.

The U.S. Government funded research that led to some of the underlying technology behind the company’s vaccine. Taxpayers later provided an almost $10 billion investment to help develop and purchase doses of the vaccine. This enabled the company to make windfall profits and ensured massive paydays for the company’s executives.

Shortly after U.S. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called on Moderna’s CEO to testify, Moderna announced plans to ensure shots of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine would remain free for patients. However, the company’s proposed mechanism to accomplish this – a patience assistance program – will ultimately only pass these costs along to taxpayers and the health care system.

Importantly, in 2021 and 2022, Moderna’s revenue topped $18 billion each year. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had not reported a profit in any single quarter in any single year, demonstrating the importance of the company’s COVID-19 treatment to Moderna’s bottom line. Also in 2022, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel made $398 million, as the company ballooned in market value and popularity. According to STAT News, “the pay package is likely to be one of the largest in health care for 2022.”

Other Big Pharma Companies Considering Vaccine Price Hikes

Moderna is not the only Big Pharma giant looking to squeeze additional profits out of COVID-19 products through price increases ahead of commercial distribution.

  • In October, Big Pharma giant Pfizer also announced plans to “as much as quadruple” the price of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine – to a price that represents a “10,000 percent markup over what experts have estimated it costs the vaccine makers to produce the shots.”
  • In January, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla signaled to Wall Street that he expects higher profit margins on the Big Pharma company’s COVID-19 portfolio, saying, “we expect, going forward, to be higher, the margins.”
  • And in August, Eli Lilly hiked the price of its monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 ahead of a transition to the commercial market, from around $1,800 per dose to around $2,100 per dose.

According to a January Morning Consult poll commissioned by CSRxP, 84 percent voters expressed concern when they heard that the brand name manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, including Pfizer, Moderna and Eli Lilly, were increasing prices on these products as they move to the commercial market.

Big Pharma eyeing up the chance to profiteer off of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, including ones that taxpayers contributed to to develop and purchase, yet again demonstrates that policymakers must focus on holding Big Pharma accountable to lower prescription drug prices.

Watch the Senate HELP Committee’s full hearing on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine price increases HERE.

Read more about Moderna and other brand name drug makers’ proposed COVID-19 vaccine price hikes HERE.

Learn more about bipartisan, market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable HERE.