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How the Senate Paved the Way for Coronavirus Profiteering, and How Congress Could Undo It



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Before a vaccine to combat the coronavirus pandemic is within view, the Trump administration has already walked back its initial refusal to promise that any remedy would be affordable to the general public. “We can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,” Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary and a former drug industry executive, told Congress.
After extraordinary blowback, the administration insisted that in the end, any treatment would indeed be affordable. President Donald Trump on Monday morning tweeted that he would be meeting with “the major pharmaceutical companies today at the White House about progress on a vaccine and cure. Progress being made!” The federal government, though, under the Clinton administration, traded away one of the key tools it could use to make good on the promise of affordability.
Gilead Sciences, a drugmaker known for price gouging, has been working with Chinese health authorities to see if the experimental drug remdesivir can treat coronavirus symptoms. World Health Organization officials say it’s the “only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy.” But remdesivir, which was previously tested to treat Ebola virus, was developed through research conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham with funding from the federal government.
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