Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

House Dems Introduce Bill to Prevent Big Pharma Price Gouging During COVID-19 Pandemic

Politics
House Dems Introduce Bill to Prevent Big Pharma Price Gouging During COVID-19 Pandemic
Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California, is developing a COVID-19 treatment. ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

On the heels of polling that showed 88% of Americans worry Big Pharma will exploit the ongoing pandemic to hike drug prices, House Democrats on Monday introduced two bipartisan bills to prevent price gouging for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines and to strengthen oversight of federal spending on coronavirus research and development.


Public Citizen president Robert Weissman welcomed the legislation in a statement. "This is about way more than ensuring taxpayers aren't ripped off, as important as that objective is," he declared. "Promoting transparency and reasonable pricing of Covid-19 treatments and vaccines is a life-and-death matter."

"President Donald Trump's sycophancy to drug corporations is endangering the nation's pandemic response," Weissman warned. "Although public investments are driving drug and vaccine development, the Trump administration is permitting drug companies to retain monopoly control over the drugs and vaccines, including those still under development."

"The administration is refusing to use its existing authorities to enable knowledge sharing and generic competition. Nor is the administration seeking enhanced powers from Congress," he added. "The certain result will be profiteering, rationing, and inadequate supplies of the medicines and vaccines desperately needed to treat and eliminate the virus."

The Make Medications Affordable by Preventing Pandemic Price-gouging (MMAPPP) Act introduced Monday is sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a senior chief deputy whip and chair of the House Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee. Schakowsky said that "we have good reason to be skeptical about the role of the pharmaceutical industry."

"Well before this pandemic, we saw price gouging that cost lives. Now, during a global health crisis, many pharmaceutical companies will see another opportunity to benefit themselves by 'pandemic profiteering.' That cannot stand," she said. "Congress must guarantee affordable Covid-19 drugs, eliminate monopolies on these drugs, and ensure transparency for taxpayers who developed them."

 

As a statement from the congresswoman's office outlined, the MMAPPP Act would prevent price-gouging by:

  • Prohibiting pharmaceutical monopolies on new, taxpayer-funded Covid-19 drugs in order to ensure universal access to these drugs;
  • Requiring the federal government to mandate reasonable, affordable pricing of any new, taxpayer-funded Covid-19 drug used to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or treat Covid-19
  • Ensuring transparency and requiring manufacturers to publicly report a specific breakdown of total expenditures on any Covid-19 drug, including what percentage of those expenditures were derived from federal funds; and
  • Preventing excessive pricing of drug used to treat any disease that causes a public health emergency by waiving exclusive licenses and compensating with a reasonable royalty.

The second bill, the Taxpayer Research and Coronavirus Knowledge (TRACK) Act, would establish a single database for Covid-19 research and development detailing all the financial and non-financial federal support for pharmaceutical companies, information on clinical trials and patents, and the full terms of deals between the government and drug manufacturers.

"Transparency and accountability are always vital tonics to keep democracy healthy," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), the bill's lead sponsor and chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. "Crafting a new, strong oversight tool, the TRACK Act reveals to taxpayers how billions of public funds are being used—information any private investor would demand."

Both pieces of legislation are backed by Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) as well as Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Francis Rooney (R-Fla.). DeLauro is chair of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Because of that role, DeLauro said, "I am all deeply aware of just how much money the U.S. government invests in the critical, life-saving biomedical research in this country, and we have allowed the pharmaceutical industry to take advantage of this investment, and price-gouge taxpayers. Getting any sort of information from this administration has been virtually impossible during this pandemic, and taxpayers have a right to know how their dollars are being spent."

The MMAPPP Act is endorsed by dozens of organizations, including the Center for Popular Democracy Action, Oxfam America, and Peoples Action. Supporters of the TRACK Act include AARP, Project on Government Oversight, and Communication Workers of America. Some groups—such as American Federation of Teachers, Americans for Tax Fairness, Indivisible, MomsRising, Public Citizen, and Social Security Works—support both.

"The legislative proposals from Reps. Schakowsky and Doggett prioritize public health over Big Pharma's profits," said Weissman. "Public Citizen thanks Schakowsky and Doggett for their leadership and urges immediate passage of these bills."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

Eating too much black licorice can be toxic. Nat Aggiato / Pixabay

By Bill Sullivan

Black licorice may look and taste like an innocent treat, but this candy has a dark side. On Sept. 23, 2020, it was reported that black licorice was the culprit in the death of a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts. How could this be? Overdosing on licorice sounds more like a twisted tale than a plausible fact.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sustainable t-shirts by Allbirds are made from a new, low-carbon material that uses a mineral extract from discarded snow crab shells. Jerry Buttles / Allbirds

In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are many different CBD oil brands in today's market. But, figuring out which brand is the best and which brand has the strongest oil might feel challenging and confusing. Our simple guide to the strongest CBD oils will point you in the right direction.

Read More Show Less
A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

By Brett Wilkins

Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch