Big Pharma hopes to be victorious. It almost always happens. In the first three months of 2021, the industry invested $92 million in lobbying officials in Washington, more than twice the second most militant industry. So it came as a shock last week to see US Vice President Joe Biden take a stand alongside countries like India and South Africa in demanding that drug companies hand over intellectual property for the coronavirus vaccines that are so desperately needed around the world.
The pharmaceutical industry’s trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, slammed the decision as “an extraordinary move that will weaken our global response to the pandemic.” The industry’s loss was all the more striking because it came when drug companies were riding a rare wave of public support for the pace. With that, they designed and manufactured extraordinarily successful COVID-19 breakthrough vaccines, including some that used entirely new technologies never before used in vaccines.
Republicans, though still reflexively pro-business, are enslaved to Donald Trump’s cult and no longer offer the same level of protection to businesses as they once did. The issue for Big Pharma, and increasingly for big business in general, is whether they will pursue their narrow interests through a cynical alliance with Republicans.