Keeping tabs on Covid-19: Pharma sector not immune to pandemic’s financial pressures and stakeholders demand decisions of vaccine prices are made public

New resolutions filed by US shareholders reflects concerns over potential price-gouging of Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics created with taxpayers’ dollars

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The outbreak of the novel coronavirus caused unparalleled social and economic effects around the globe. One year on and there are few signs of lockdown procedures and pressures easing despite roll outs of Covid-19 vaccines in a number of markets.

For a majority of countries, the sizeable impact on their economy is largely explained by the negative effects on output in the retail, wholesale trade, professional and real estate service. However, the pharma industry has also shown it too has been bearing the financial strain of Covid-19, with many companies assigning their annual budgets toward the development of vaccines.

This week, discover how the pharma industry has been holding up under intense financial pressures.

US shareholders pressure pharma companies to share stats for Covid-19 vaccines

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) announced that shareholder proposals have been filed with multiple pharmaceutical companies including Eli Lilly, Gilead, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer and Regeneron in an effort to learn how the companies will price their vaccines for Covid-19 that have been developed with public money in the US.

The ICCR association reported that the proposals detail whether the companies have included receipts of public financial support for the development and manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccines and therapies and how this has impacted decision-making that affects access to the products such as pricing.

The proposals form part of a broader, longer-term initiative to promote improved access and affordability of Covid-19 medicine, and followed on from letters sent by ICCR to 17 pharma companies in August 2020 with a similar set of requests.

Supports and investors of the proposal scheme have said the proposals intend to serve as an accountability mechanism to prevent price gouging and ensure companies exercise prudence in price-setting for these life-saving medicines.

Meg Jones-Monteiro, program director for health equity at the ICCR, said: “We want to ensure that any medical breakthroughs derived from the public’s contribution will be priced in an accessible way so that communities of all income levels will benefit equally. The sharing of intellectual property through a patent pool should, therefore, be a core strategy to help reduce price, increase overall supply and ensure universal access.”

Lauren Compere, managing director and director of shareowner engagement at Boston Common Asset Management, said: “Pharma companies will face significant reputational and legal risks if they are even remotely seen to be profiteering from this deadly pandemic. In particular, those companies that have accepted taxpayer dollars for research and development will come under heightened scrutiny.

“These proposals are meant to help these companies get ahead of these risks and, in the process, restore the trust of the public and other stakeholders,” Compere added.

Pandemic causes financial drain for UK businesses managing deskless workers

Quinyx, a workforce management company, has released an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solution to boost workflow and staffing efficiencies after internal research revealed UK businesses with deskless workers are consistently mismanaging staffing levels due to the effects from the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Covid-19 pandemic causing disruptions to daily workflow operations, research from the review of Quinyx’s 450,000 digital work schedules, highlighted that on average businesses are either overstaffed by 30 per cent or understaffed by 16 per cent, causing unnecessary financial strain to businesses.

Quinyx claimed, their new AI product would help businesses reconfigure their operations by revolutionizing the way they manage, forecast, engage and optimize their teams, boosting workflow efficiencies by more than 20 per cent.

The product is already being used by a major healthcare provider who is on target to save US$7.5m for 2021, thanks to reduced employee costs and admin time savings, Quinyx had claimed.

Erik Fjellborg, CEO and founder of Quinyx, explained: “Over the past year, many operators have needed to pivot their working arrangements to keep trading – that includes reducing or increasing headcount, taking on new contracts at short notice and quickly upskilling team members, all while navigating uncertainty in the UK economy and the latest Covid-19 restrictions.

“From our conversations with customers in the retail, healthcare, logistics and manufacturing industries, plus others, we know that the pandemic has exposed flaws in scheduling processes and long-term workforce planning for deskless workers.”

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