Crisis on the horizon? Nothing limits virus vaccine makers from charging exorbitant fees

vaccine prices
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[A] Covid-19 vaccine will have an actual price tag. And given the prevailing business-centric model of American drug pricing, it could well be budget breaking, perhaps making it unavailable to many.

[D]rug development is one of the world’s most lucrative businesses, ownership of drug patents is disputed in endless court battles, and monopoly power often lets manufacturers set any price, no matter how extraordinary. A new cancer treatment can cost a half-million dollars and old staples like insulin have risen manifold in price to thousands of dollars annually.

And the American government has no effective way to fight back.

If a Covid-19 vaccine yields a price of, say, $500 a course, vaccinating the entire population would bring a company over $150 billion, almost all of it profit.

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That’s why a bipartisan coalition in the House recently proposed two new bills to prevent “price gouging” for “taxpayer funded Covid-19 drugs” to ensure affordable pricing.

The exact mechanisms for enacting the provisions therein — such as requiring manufacturers to reveal their actual development costs — remain unclear.

Drug companies deserve a reasonable profit for taking on this urgent task of creating a Covid-19 vaccine. But we deserve a return, too.

So before these invaluable vaccines hit the market, we should talk about an actual price. Otherwise we will be stuck paying dearly for shots that the rest of the world will get for much less.

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