Big Pharma plans price hikes for COVID-19 vaccines

March 22, 2021: With significant problems emerging in global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the issue of vaccine prices is now emerging as another major problem for a fair, effective and rapid global vaccination program.

The World Trade Organisation rules give 20-year monopoly patents for medicines, which empowers a few global corporations to determine both supply and price, but these rules were never designed for a global pandemic.

According to a March 18, 2021, Intercept report, the Pfizer company is already reporting massive profits from its COVID-19 business, but at the same time arguing that the current prices are really not “commercial” and will go up significantly when the world moves from a “pandemic” to “endemic” conditions for the coronavirus. According to the Intercept report, this could be on July 1 this year!

Frank d’Amelio, the Pfizer Chief Finance Officer spoke at the Barclays Global Healthcare Conference on March 11, 2021, first about how good business will be in 2021, and then about the shift in pricing policy.

“In terms of the guidance that we provided for 2021, if you look at our overall guidance, including COVID, the $15 billion in COVID revenues, revenues are growing operationally 41%. … our business without COVID, the top line next year is growing operationally 6%. [Earnings per share] is growing 11%. ...

“We believe it's becoming increasingly likely that an annual revaccination is going to take place …. for the foreseeable future. Now in terms of pricing … current demand and current pricing … it's really been driven by kind of the pandemic state that we've been in and the needs of governments to really secure doses from the various vaccine suppliers. … what I believe is as we move … from a pandemic situation to an endemic situation, normal market forces, normal market conditions will start to kick in. And factors like efficacy, booster ability, clinical utility will basically become very important, and we view that as, quite frankly, a significant opportunity for our vaccine from a demand perspective, from a pricing perspective, given the clinical profile of our vaccine”.

According to the Intercept report, Pfizer, in its latest investor disclosures, revealed that it received advance payments for its vaccine totaling $957 million as of December 31. In the US, the company has agreed to a price of US$39 (A$50) per patient based on a two-dose vaccination. In the European Union, the company charges a higher rate, nearly US$64 (A$83) per patient. These figures, however, could increase. Pfizer’s pneumococcal vaccine, Prevnar 13, for instance, costs US$200 (A$259) per dose on the private market.