In a startling admission made while speaking in a recent Zoom meeting with a key group of his party’s Members of Parliament, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson openly attributed the “success” of his country’s COVID-19 vaccine program to “capitalism” and “greed”. Praising the pharma industry for producing the controversial vaccines, Johnson stated “it was giant corporations that wanted to give good returns to shareholders”. His admittance, that drug companies are primarily driven by shareholder profits rather than human health, confirms the analysis that Dr. Matthias Rath first set out more than two decades ago.
Realizing that his comments would be widely reported in the UK media, including by the BBC, Johnson is said to have quickly withdrawn them. Tellingly, however, his Downing Street office declined to deny that he had made them. Coming on the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown, Johnson’s admittance that the country’s COVID-19 vaccine program was “driven by big pharma” will thus be seen by millions of people worldwide as proof that the drug industry is motivated not by altruism but by profits and greed.
Made at a time when the UK’s daily news output consists of wall-to-wall praise for the pharma industry and its rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, Johnson’s comments predictably met with a barrage of criticism in the mainstream media. Behind the headlines, however, the evidence shows he was simply being honest.
Dr. Matthias Rath has long pointed out that the huge profits of the pharma industry are based on the patenting of new drugs and vaccines. Based on its ownership of such patents, the pharma industry’s annual sales are forecast to reach a staggering $1.5 trillion this year. Pharma executives therefore see defending patents as central to the survival of their business model.
In light of this it is hardly surprising that richer members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) recently blocked a push by over 80 developing countries to waive patent rights in an effort to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines for poorer nations. Unsurprisingly, countries opposing the waiving of patent rights included the UK, Switzerland, the United States, as well as the European Union, all of whom are leading pharmaceutical exporters. Analysts expect that once the urgent phase of the coronavirus pandemic is over, vaccine producers in these countries will seek to capitalize on their patent ownerships by increasing the prices of the jabs. At that point, all pretense regarding the claimed non-profit approach to manufacturing the vaccines will vanish.
Further evidence regarding the importance of patents can be seen in the launch by the World Health Organization (WHO) last year of a technology-sharing scheme, called the ‘COVID-19 Technology Access Pool’, with the goal of collecting patent rights and other information that could help developing countries make COVID-19 vaccines. Unsurprisingly, as yet no COVID-19 vaccine producers have agreed to take part in it. Speaking in an online forum organized by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) in May 2020, Pfizer’s chief executive Albert Bourla openly derided the scheme as “nonsense” and “dangerous”. AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot was equally forthright, saying that intellectual property (IP) is a “fundamental part” of the pharma industry. “If you don’t protect IP,” he complained, “there is no incentive for anybody to innovate”.
Perhaps the greatest irony in all this is that while Boris Johnson is commonly portrayed by the UK media as being ‘gaffe-prone’, on this occasion he has drawn international attention to the true nature of the pharma industry and its ‘business with disease’. If this ultimately helps contribute to an increased awareness regarding the potential health risks of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the effectiveness and safety of natural approaches to impeding coronavirus infection, the British Prime Minister may yet turn out to have performed a valuable service to global public health.