Photo credit: CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2022– Source: EP

Big Pharma has “disproportionate” influence on EU, claims report

Pharmaceutical giants within Europe have a “disproportionate” impact on the European Union and its decision making, a new report has claimed.

The text – entitled “Access Denied – What happens when Big Pharma is in the driver’s seat” – was compiled by both the UK charity StopAIDS, and French NGO Global Health Advocates.

It includes interviews with four MEPs, the Director General of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, various European Commission spokespersons, Moderna, Pfizer, the EU Ombudsman, and various other corporate watchdog groups in Europe.

The document claims that pharmaceutical companies and their “industry influence” may have led to some “car crash decisions” at the European level during the Covid-19 pandemic and “put the world at risk.”

“A key consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the exacerbation of global systemic inequalities, most notably those between high and lower income countries,” it reads, adding that pharmaceutical products like vaccines were hoarded by Europe and not made available to other parts of the world for profit, leading to much higher death tolls in third world countries.

“We consider that it is clear that it was not global public health considerations that led the global response to the pandemic, but rather commercial, economic and geopolitical considerations,” the document adds.

The text’s authors also harshly criticise the EU’s censorship of vaccine procurement contracts between the bloc and pharma companies such as Pfizer, with large parts of the documents redacted to members of the public and politicians.

The report’s authors claim that these redactions “undermined public health in the name of profit.”

“We find that whilst industry influence existed even before the pandemic, this influence was magnified at a time when the continent was desperate to vaccinate its population in the face of a new virus,” the report’s executive summary reads.

“This resulted in accommodating industry requests on several matters, from pricing, liability, transparency, to intellectual property,” it added.

The report continues on to say that the European Commission was unduly “secretive” regarding pharmaceutical products compared to other state actors, withholding information that was “often arbitrary, inconsistent, and not related to the exceptions invoked under existing law to justify secrecy.”

“The EC (European Commission) also agreed to extensive confidentiality requirements with pharmaceutical corporations that may not be fully consistent with EU legislation,” the groups said.

This is not the first time the EU has been accused of a lack of transparency regarding its dealings with the pharmaceutical industry.

Last year the EU’s own ombudsman found that the European Commission was guilty of “maladministration” after it refused to released texts between President Ursula Von Der Leyen and Albert Bourla, the head of Pfizer.

“One year after the initial request by a journalist, the Commission has still not clarified whether messages reported to concern major vaccine procurement deals exist and whether the public is entitled to see them,” the Ombudsman said in a statement at the time.

“The Ombudsman had asked the Commission, in a finding of maladministration in January, to conduct a more thorough search for the text messages. The Commission’s recent response failed to say whether it had looked directly and correctly for the text messages and if not, why not.”

 

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