Big Pharma Launches Campaign Against Biden Over Covid Vaccine Patent Waiver

US President Joe Biden speaks about the 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine administered in the United States at an event commemorating the milestone in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on February 25, 2021.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

The lobby group that represents several large pharmaceutical companies last month quietly launched a campaign against President Joe Biden and his decision to support the lifting of intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA, is a policy advocacy group that represents more than 30 pharmaceutical companies, including vaccine makers Covid Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. At the end of last month, he began launching a digital ad campaign on Facebook and Google targeting Biden’s decision, a CNBC search of the companies’ ad records found.

As PhRMA blew up the Biden administrationShortly after the announcement, the group did not officially announce a campaign against the waiver. Details of the effort had not yet been released.

Supporters of lifting patent protections say it allows poorer countries to increase production of the Covid vaccine.

After this story was published, a spokesperson for PhRMA released this statement to CNBC:

“Biopharmaceutical research companies are committed to achieving equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, and that is why we are educating policy makers and the public about our continued efforts to increase the supply of vaccines for the global demand, the risks of forgoing intellectual property protections, and the need to tackle the real issues that lead to vaccine inequity. “

PhRMA’s ads on Google refer to Biden by name.

“Biden’s Harmful Vaccine Stance,” reads one of the Google ads reviewed by CNBC. “Biden’s damaging IP position,” reads another Google spot.

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Google’s ad records show that one of the ads on the search platform cost the group between $ 1,000 and $ 50,000. The other costs less than $ 100. Both were targeting the area in and around Washington, DC, according to Google data.

Each Google ad ran for up to five days until the end of May, according to the search engine’s ad transparency report.

Google ads link to articles written by the PhRMA public affairs team and posted on the group’s website. One of the posts carries the big title: “The Biden administration allows politics to reverse a pragmatic response to the pandemic.” The article claims that “not only will this policy do nothing to help save lives around the world, it could have a detrimental impact on American patients.”

Another PhRMA article cites a Hill-HarrisX poll which shows that 57% of registered voters who responded to the poll are against waiver.

Facebook’s ad library shows that PhRMA has spent over $ 245,000 since late April and throughout May on digital spots. A fraction of that was spent on ads that ran in late May targeting Biden’s decision.

The Facebook ads all had the same message: “Eliminating IP protections undermines our global response to the pandemic and compromises security. One spot had a potential reach of up to 1 million people, according to data from the social media giant. This ad targeted people in Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia. PhRMA Ads on Facebook are currently inactive.

Even before launching the digital ad campaign, PhRMA was actively lobbying Biden’s White House on the patent waiver issue.

First-quarter lobbying disclosure reports, which run from Biden’s inauguration month through March, show that PhRMA lobbied the president’s executive office as well as the Department of Health and Human Services on “Issues of international intellectual property policy and market access”, among other concerns.

PhRMA spent just over $ 8.5 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2021. Data from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics shows the organization spent over $ 25 million in and around 2020. $ 30 million in 2019 in lobbying expenses.

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