Mar 23, 2023

Senate HELP Committee Members Slam Moderna’s CEO for Instituting Nearly 500 Percent Price Increase on Company’s COVID-19 Vaccine

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing with Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, titled “Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?” The hearing examined the Big Pharma company’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 $130 per dose, as payment shifts from the U.S. Government to the private market.

During the hearing, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle slammed the Big Pharma company for the egregious price increase, noting that taxpayers have already invested billions of dollars in Moderna’s vaccine, and that Moderna’s price increase would come amid record profits for the company and a crisis of prescription drug affordability, with more than one-in-three Americans recently reporting they have opted to not fill a prescription due to cost.

Here is what lawmakers had to say:

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions: “As a matter of public record, U.S. taxpayers spent $12 billion on the research, development and procurement of the NIH-Moderna COVID vaccine, and here is the thank you that the taxpayers of this country received from Moderna for that huge investment. They are thanking the taxpayers of the United States by proposing to quadruple the price of the COVID vaccine to as much as $130 once the government stockpile runs out. At a time when it costs less than $3 to manufacture the vaccine, $3 to manufacture it, $130 on market.”

“In the pharmaceutical industry today, we are looking at an unprecedented level of corporate greed – and that is certainly true with Moderna. Today, according to a recent survey, 37 percent of the American people could not afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribed. Meanwhile, 10 major pharmaceutical companies made over $100 billion in profit in 2021 – a 137% increase from the previous year.”

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions: “I’m a physician. I worked for over two decades in a hospital for the uninsured and those poorly insured on Medicaid. So, I’m very familiar with this issue. We share the concerns. Americans pay too much for prescription drugs and the medicines we depend upon.”

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI): “Today’s hearing demonstrates exactly why we need more transparency. While big drug companies have taken in record profits, more than a quarter of Americans struggle to pay for their prescription medications.”

Senator Mike Braun (R-IN): “A 400 percent price increase is preposterous, especially when you’ve been given all this government largesse.”

Senator Tina Smith (D-MN): “I understand the concepts of return on investment and risk-reward, but it is difficult for me to accept that the profits you are reaping on the backs of American taxpayers are necessary or reasonable. It feels like a bonanza to me.”

Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS): “Mr. Chairman, let the record show that you and I agree on something…I agree that charging Americans $130 for this vaccine is outrageous.”

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA): “Even one person not getting vaccinated because they can’t afford it is a health system failure…biopharmaceutical innovation can cure disease, extend lives and end epidemics, and they should be praised for that. But the real power of that innovation comes from guaranteeing that every community no matter of the income, zip code has access.”

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA): “For a lot of my constituents, most of my constituents, no matter what their insurance status is, the cost of prescription drugs is like a bag of rocks on their shoulder every single day. And what may not seem like a lot of money to you, to a lot of other people – $130, $150, or whatever the number ends up – is a lot of money.”

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA): “We are talking about a vaccine that taxpayers invested $12 billion in, a vaccine that was once $15, and now you’re planning, of course, to price it at $130 despite the fact that it costs just about $3 to make. We know that cost is going to get passed on to consumers, whether it’s through higher premiums or higher administration fees.”

Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM): “According to your last earnings call, you have $18 billion cash on hand, and you plan to only spend $4.5 billion on additional research and development over the next year. For a company that has never had a commercial drug product before the COVID vaccine, that’s a lot of profit. I support people doing well and profits. This was a national pandemic, and I’m sorry, people are still getting sick and dying from COVID. That’s real. Whether people want to admit that or not that’s real. This just seems hard for me to understand. The cash you’re sitting on, your projections, looking at what the US government did, not just with investment but accelerated treatment when it came to attention to approving a drug that was going to save people’s lives, and I appreciate everyone that was responsible for this. I’m just having a hard time with this.”

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.