Pharma has largely missed the mark on human rights principles in COVID-19 vaccine, drug marketing: nonprofit

How has the pharma industry weighed human rights during its marketing of COVID-19 drugs and vaccines? That’s what the Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation (PAF) sought to answer, and the results might not be what the industry wants to hear.

For its Fair Pharma Scorecard project, PAF ranked 26 companies involved in selling COVID-19 drugs, vaccine and diagnostics based on their compliance with 19 human rights principles. Not one company complied with all the criteria, and most "still need to take big steps" to make their products accessible and affordable, PAF said.

In general, PAF noticed a weariness toward knowledge sharing, iffy transparency levels and differences between various products at the same companies. For example, Pfizer's compliance with the criteria scored at 65% for its oral antiviral Paxlovid and 50% for its vaccine.

For Paxlovid, one of the highest-scoring products in the report, PAF's biggest knock was that Pfizer has not made made the active ingredient in the drug available to other manufacturers. And while Pfizer committed to a full technology transfer to other manufacturers, licenses are only available in certain countries, PAF said. 

As for Pfizer's blockbuster vaccine Comirnaty, that product missed the mark in categories such as transparency, equality and international cooperation and ended with a final compliance score of 50%. 

As of February, Pfizer has sold 66.25% of it doses to high-income countries, PAF said.

Moderna’s vaccine, SpikeVax, also landed at 50% compliance. The product didn’t meet certain markers for transparency, pricing or global supply distribution. Moderna has sold only 31.5% of its doses to low- and middle-income countries, PAF said.  On the flip side, PAF recognized Moderna's commitment to not enforce patent rights during the pandemic.

On the antibody front, Eli Lilly's bebtelovimab landed at the bottom of the list with a compliance score of 25%. PAF's knocks on that product included concerns over pricing, transparency and more.

Overall, PAF says the industry has a long way to go. The nonprofit argues human rights principles can be compatible with viable business models, but companies need to do more.

Moderna, Eli Lilly and Pfizer did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publishing.