The new Fair Pharma Scorecard – developed by the Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation – shows that 19 out of 26 pharmaceutical companies scored poorly on their human rights compliance during the Covid-19 pandemic. The scorecard reveals how the companies perform when it comes to human rights’ commitments, transparency, international cooperation, equality, non-discrimination, and equity.
People have the right to equal access to life-saving health products. Nevertheless, the results of the Fair Pharma Scorecard show that most companies still need to take big steps to make Covid-19 vaccines and medicines available and affordable to everybody. With scores ranging from 22% (Vector State Research Centre) to 74% (Texas Children’s Hospital), none of the pharmaceutical companies reached 100% compliance with human rights principles. The scorecard works like a traffic light, with green, yellow, and red scores. The 26 companies produced 30 products: 4 products score green, 7 score yellow, but 19 products are in the red zone.
“The Fair Pharma Scorecard shows that pharma can do better – that people should prevail over profit, and that human rights are powerful principles to hold industry accountable. But there are too few companies performing well to restore the power balance in favour of human rights. If pharma will not change of its own accord, governments must step in and make legislation that will compel it to do so.” – says Wilbert Bannenberg, chairperson of the Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation.
Not much appetite for knowledge sharing
Even though sharing of know-how and intellectual property is an important way to increase worldwide production of life-saving vaccines, only two companies have committed to share knowledge with the Medicines Patent Pool: MSD on its antiviral product molnupiravir and Pfizer on nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid). None have joined the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), despite the global push by governments and civil society to join this sharing mechanism. Pfizer and Moderna refused to share the patents for their life-saving mRNA vaccines and have mostly sold their products to high-income countries. Five companies have committed to not enforcing patents during the pandemic (Texas Children’s Hospital, Finlay, CIGB, Gamaleya and Moderna).
Transparency: yes for clinical trial reports, not for production costs
Transparency regarding a company’s activities is a key element for reinforcing the availability, accessibility, and affordability of medicines. The scorecard shows that companies are more transparent about their clinical trial results (100% compliance) and their production capacity (72% compliance), than about their production costs (3%). Texas Children’s Hospital is the only company to disclose these costs. Over half of the companies publish their overall research and development costs, but only two (Novavax and Gilead) break these down product by product.
Mixed results for Pfizer
Pfizer ranks fourth in the scorecard with its antiviral product Paxlovid with a 65% human rights’ compliance score. The company has pursued some important access initiatives for Paxlovid, including a deal with the Medicines Patent Pool. Although this is very positive, the deal leaves out many middle-income countries in need of the treatment. One of these countries (the Dominican Republic) requested a compulsory license for Paxlovid, which would allow generic versions of the medicine to be manufactured and sold without the permission of the patent holder. Pfizer opposed this, mistakenly arguing that its intellectual property is ‘a human right’.
While therapeutics are an important element in the public health response to Covid-19, vaccines remain the chief tool to fight the disease. Unfortunately, when it comes to Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine, the company scores a lot worse (11th place with 50% human rights’ compliance). As opposed to Paxlovid, the company has refused to share intellectual property and technology for its vaccine, despite worldwide calls to do so.
Human rights policies: OK on paper, but not in practice
Some of the top-scoring companies (Texas Children’s Hospital, Finlay, CIGB) do not have an explicit human rights policy, yet their behaviour is the most human rights-compliant. Mentioning human rights in a company’s communication is a good first step, but truly improving access to medicines requires integrating human rights principles into every aspect of a company’s activities, policies, and programming. Not just in its manifesto.
Reconciling human rights and pharma?
The Fair Pharma Scorecard discloses the practices that should become guiding lights for pandemic preparedness. It also shows that human rights can, and should be applied to the pharmaceutical industry. Human rights principles are compatible with running a viable pharmaceutical business model. Just check out the good examples.
Note for the press – not for publishing
For questions or more information, please contact:
Rosalind Turkie, human rights consultant at Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation
Wilbert Bannenberg, chairperson, Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation
More about the Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation:
Methodology and scores of all 30 products are available at https://fairpharmascorecard.org
You are welcome to join our online event ‘How Fair is Pharma?’, where we present the ‘Fair Pharma Scorecard’, and discuss with companies: 30 June 4-5.30PM CEST. More info about the program here. You can register here.
The Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation (PAF, in Dutch Farma ter Verantwoording) has based the Fair Pharma Scorecard criteria on the United Nations Business and Human Rights principles that many pharmaceutical companies publicly commit to (UNGPs). These principles were translated into 47 responsibilities for pharmaceutical companies (A/63/263, known as the Paul Hunt guidelines). Hunt’s guidelines refer to transparency, international cooperation, equality, non-discrimination and equity. From these, PAF developed 19 criteria to monitor pharmaceutical companies developing and marketing Covid-19 vaccines and/or therapeutics. The methodology and scoring criteria were made publicly available.
In January 2021 PAF published an earlier version (named Good Covid-19 Company Practices or GCCP) in which 12 products were scored. Based on the 2021 experiences, PAF developed the ‘Guidelines for Responsible Pharmaceutical Behaviour during Covid-19’.
NB: All companies were informed about the Scorecard process and were asked to score themselves. Responses were considered and compared to PAF’s own research. The draft results were shared with the companies, which were then given another opportunity to comment.