As Big Pharma executives gathered in London to congratulate each other with awards for their performance amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, access to medicines activists interrupted the gala ceremony to condemn the industry’s profiteering and demand an end to pharma monopolies.
“Pharma execs are celebrating their own greed with a round of back-slapping awards and swigging champagne.”
Activists from Just Treatment, Global Justice Now, and STOPAIDS were removed from the Pharma Awards Europe 2022 after disrupting a champagne lunch and hoisting a banner reading “Pharma Greed Kills” on the event stage.
The protesters answered award categories including “driving health equity,” “patient champion,” and “driving inclusive trials” with their own mock awards for “pandemic profiteering,” “disastrous deaths,” and “profits over lives.” They’re demanding that Big Phamra “put lives ahead of profits and end the industry’s pandemic profiteering by sharing crucial technology and manufacturing know-how” for vaccines and other products.
“Pharmaceutical executives must be confronted with the truth: Their greed is killing people. No company should hold monopolies and be able to increase prices as they feel during a global health emergency,” said Emma Hughes, head of campaigns at Just Treatment and a participant in Thursday’s action.
“While making record profit, they’ve used their direct access to political leaders to crush international efforts to address inequitable access to vaccines, tests, and treatments,” Hughes added. “It’s disgusting that they present awards to each other titled ‘driving health equity’ while their actions hold back equitable access to medicines for the world’s poorest.”
On a promotional website, host Reuters Eventsexplains the purpose of the ceremony is to “celebrate the great strides you’ve made during truly unprecedented times: improving patient outcomes; creating value for customers; and addressing long-lasting health inequities.”
However, according to the activists, less than one-quarter of people in low-income countries have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, while Big Pharma and governments of most wealthy nations continue to oppose meaningful patent waivers that would allow people in the Global South to produce and distribute the lifesaving inoculations.
According to the protest organizers:
The death toll from Covid-19 has been four times higher in low-income countries than rich ones, and more than 1 million lives could have been saved if Covid-19 vaccines were shared more equitably with low-income countries in 2021. Meanwhile, Pfizer and Moderna are expected to make $34 billion and $19 billion respectively this year from Covid vaccine sales alone. With today’s Autumn Statement detailing renewed austerity measures, taxpayers and patients are concerned that continued pharmaceutical company profiteering will mean further pressures on [National Health Service] spending; in 2021 U.K. reportedly could have paid Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna £1.8 billion more than the estimated production cost of these mRNA vaccines.
Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said that “it is pretty sickening that whilst billions of people have not yet had access to a Covid vaccine, pharma execs are celebrating their own greed with a round of back-slapping awards and swigging champagne.”
“Not content with billions of pounds in profit, Big Pharma has done all it can to uphold its monopolies on lifesaving medicines and health tools, denying access to millions and resulting in thousands of preventable deaths,” he added. “We need a new model for the pharmaceutical industry, where global public goods, often developed with public funding, aren’t monopolized for private profit but shared for the good of humanity.”