The following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat.
WASHINGTON DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the Department of Secretary Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting information and documents for all contracts issued for the development, manufacture, and distribution of therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics, and other medical products procured by the federal government to identify, mitigate, treat, cure and prevent the spread of COVID-19, including all contracts associated with Operation Warp Speed (OWS).
To date, Operation Warp Speed (OWS) has awarded over $13 billion in contracts to nearly 20 companies in pursuit of its goal “to have substantial quantities of a safe and effective vaccine available for Americans by January 2021;” NIH has awarded over $1.65 billion to nearly 740 recipients; BARDA, in conjunction with OWS, has spent over $14.5 billion to advance COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines; and FEMA has spent billions to procure medical supplies, but the terms of many of these contracts have been kept secret.
“Transparency into federal COVID-19 contracts is needed to ensure fair pricing, speed, effectiveness, and quality for the American people. After Americans have invested billions of taxpayer dollars, they deserve to know, for example, whether the federal government’s deals have preserved its public interest,” the lawmakers wrote.
Given the Trump Administration’s history of cronyism and prolific conflicts of interest, releasing these documents would bring much-needed transparency to investments in the COVID-19 response efforts.
“The American people deserve to know that the federal government is using their tax dollars to develop COVID-19 medical products at the best possible price for the public-not to line the pockets of wealthy companies by cutting corners in consumer protection, pricing, and quality,” the lawmakers wrote.
Senator Warren raised questions about HHS’s deal with Gilead Sciences for the COVID-19 therapeutic remdesivir, a COVID-19 therapeutic that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month. HHS acquired a large supply of remdesivir at an exorbitant cost to American taxpayers. Gilead charged U.S. hospitals $3,200 per treatment for remdesivir-the highest price in the world, $860 more than other developed countries.
This week, Senator Warren sent a letter requesting an update on HHS pricing negotiations with Gilead Sciences for treatments of its COVID-19 antiviral drug remdesivir, including whether HHS plans to challenge Gilead’s monopoly control of the drug in order to lower costs and ensure the treatment is accessible.