February 11, 2021
Price gouging by pharmaceutical companies ‘morally reprehensible – Sorca Clarke TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence, Sorca Clarke TD, has condemned pharmaceutical companies who are placing profits before human lives and refusing to sign up to WHO programmes aimed at helping poorer countries develop a vaccination programme.

Her warning comes after the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee heard from Dr Kieran Harkin and Dr Aisling McMahon of Access to Medicine Ireland on 9thFebruary about the importance of countries and companies engaging in this programme. They were joined by Winnie Byanyima of the UNAIDS programme and Dr. David Nabarro, the WHO’s Special Envoy on Covid-19 Response.

Teachta Clarke said:

“At times like this it is important that global solidarity and mutual support are to the forefront of our efforts to combat this pandemic. I would like to commend the great work being done by Access to Medicine Ireland in supporting these calls with regard to the WHO’s CTAP programme. 

“This programme would allow for the voluntary sharing of intellectual property to allow companies and countries to produce the vaccine that are currently unable. Such a programme would greatly increase the production rate and speed up the end of this pandemic. 

“Unfortunately, however, pharmaceutical corporations have so far refused to participate in such a programme.

“I appreciated the honesty and frankness of our guests in the Committee. Dr Nabarro’s statement that unless we act quickly that many developing countries will not see the end of the pandemic until 2023 was especially worrying. 

“Covid-19 respects no borders and even if we achieve herd immunity at home, if the disease is prolific in other areas we are all at risk.

“Furthermore, our integrated economy means it is in everyone’s interest to ensure a fair distribution. By one estimate almost half of all jobs in Africa are at risk due to this pandemic.

“It is under these circumstances that I find it morally reprehensible that major companies won’t sign up to the CTAP programme. It was only by sharing of intellectual property that we overcame HIV/AIDS and only by doing so now will we overcome Covid-19. 

“Both for our moral obligation to help poorer nations and our own self-interest we should all be getting behind this but corporate greed is once again coming first. On top of this, some companies are charging more to poorer countries per vaccine due to their inability to buy in bulk, in some cases 3 and a half times as much. 

“UN WHO programmes such as COVAX are helping nations pool resources but it’s not enough. We need to pressure companies to play their part as well.

“What makes this all the more frustrating is that many of these companies benefited from grants, R&D research and tax cuts to develop this vaccine out of taxpayer funds from the EU and its Member States as well as other countries globally. It’s time they return the favour.”

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