The Biden administration is starting to transition the federal government away from paying for Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, with the shift likely to materialize this fall.
"One of the things we've spent a lot of time thinking about in the last many months...is getting us out of that acute emergency phase where the US government is buying the vaccines, buying the treatments, buying the diagnostic tests," White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said at a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation event on Tuesday.
"My hope is that in 2023, you're going to see the commercialization of almost all of these products," Jha added. "Some of that is actually going to begin this fall, in the days and weeks ahead." Earlier this year, a White House request for another $10 billion in pandemic response funding stalled in Congress.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that, on Aug. 30, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will host a meeting of pharmaceutical companies, state health departments and pharmacies to start sorting out how to make the transition, which also include regulatory adjustments.
Referring to the broader transition, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America SVP Anne McDonald Pritchett told the Journal “there are issues of reimbursement, equitable access to vaccines and treatment, and distribution that need to be resolved.”
"Resolving the issue of equitable access" loosely translates to figuring out how to still give many tests, vaccines and treatments away to the uninsured and others -- so drug companies will still be reaping some benefit from governmental redistribution of wealth where Covid-19 is concerned.
The federal government has already stopped buying monoclonal antibody treatments, such as Eli Lilly's bebtelovimab. The list price is $2,100 a dose, and Lilly is working with HHS to transition to direct sales to health care providers. At the same time, “Lilly is coordinating with the US government to identify solutions so that uninsured, lower-income individuals can access bebtelovimab,” an Eli Lilly spokeswoman told Bloomberg.
Pfizer and Moderna racked up $79 billion in Covid vaccine sales in 2021 alone, the Journal reports, with sales juiced by public health officials' false claims of efficacy, coupled with coercive vaccination requirements imposed by governments, schools and employers.
Moving forward, Covid-associated prices will be subject to negotiations among drug-makers, pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies. Kaiser Family Foundation executive vice president Larry Levitt told the Journal the net effect will likely be higher prices and higher insurance premiums.
No idea why WSJ thinks that now the pharma companies are going to make more money. They already profited insanely off of C-19, and a lot of people didn't even want the shots for free.https://t.co/fcwsyehXMh— Cecilia Glennon (@CeciliaGlennon) August 18, 2022
However, after The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that planning for the transition is getting underway in earnest, shares of vaccine makers slumped: Moderna was down 5% and Pfizer down nearly 2%. "Moderna will be at a disadvantage as the Covid-19 vaccines enter the commercial market, as it goes up against Pfizer, which has a substantially larger commercial infrastructure," said Josh Nathan-Kazis of Barron's.
While the inept government middleman was in the mix, Pfizer and Moderna were happy to churn out far more vaccines than the market demanded. Between December 2020 and mid-May of this year, US federal agencies, pharmacies and states threw out a whopping 82.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses.
Meanwhile, in mid-October, the Biden administration is expected to extend the declared Covid-19 public health emergency into January 2023, ensuring midterm voters are still benefitting from expanded Medicaid coverage and higher payments to hospitals.
What a racket.