NEW YORK: Moderna’s CEO defended the company’s decision to raise the price of its lifesaving Covid vaccine to $130 per dose, four times the current price, once government stockpiles are depleted.
Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders slammed the price increase, accusing the pharmaceutical industry of “unprecedented levels of corporate greed.” “That is certainly true of Moderna,” Sanders added.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Moderna has so far charged between $15 and $26 for doses of its vaccine.
Sanders stated at a Senate hearing where Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel was testifying that the US government subsidized $1.7 billion of Moderna’s research at the start of the pandemic and then purchased $10 billion in the vaccine.
Sanders stated that Moderna was “thanking the taxpayers of the United States” by more than tripling the price of the vaccine “at a time when it costs less than $3 to manufacture.”
Sanders mentioned several times during the hearing that Moderna conducted stock buybacks and lavishly compensated its own executives at its Cambridge, Massachusetts, headquarters.
Bancel defended Moderna, claiming that when the US government lifts the state of a health emergency, which could happen as soon as May, the distribution system will change completely.
Moderna had only one customer up until now, distributed its vaccine to a few warehouses, and did not have to pay for the cost of expired doses.
By adopting a more traditional marketing strategy, “we’ll have 10,000 customers” and must “manage to deliver to 60,000 pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals,” he added.
The vaccine, which is currently distributed in multidose vials, will be sold primarily in single-dose vials or directly in prefilled syringes. And Moderna will be responsible for any unsold doses.
According to Bancel, the company expects a “90 percent reduction in demand.” “We are losing scale economies. We must assume the risk and cost of waste that the US government previously assumed.”
Moderna also promised to set up a program that would exempt the uninsured or underinsured from paying any fees.
When Sanders pressed Bancel about the possibility of the company lowering its price for government-run health insurance programs, Bancel stated that discussions with all customers were ongoing.