Legal Filings

Legal Filings
Mar 19, 2012

CREW with Advocacy Groups Ask FTC to Investigate Anti-Competitive Practices of Vaccine Makers

Merck BuildingWashington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARx), the Campaign for America's Future (CAF), and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to immediately investigate the vaccine bundling practices of Sanofi Pasteur and Merck, which make it harder for pediatricians to use the best vaccines for children.  Sanofi and Merck force pediatricians to buy vaccines in a bundle at a discount, or pay exorbitantly high prices to purchase vaccines individually.  As a result, some children may not receive the vaccines most suitable for them.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “When parents take their kids to the doctor, they expect the best medical care available, not the care dictated by drug companies seeking to maximize their profits.  Basically, doctors are asked to make a choice they can’t refuse.”

CREW first wrote to the FTC about this issue in 2010, but a whistleblower has now provided new details about the practice.  Vaccine discounts are conditioned on an express agreement that healthcare groups will purchase only a particular company’s vaccines.  If any member of the practice fails to comply with this exclusivity requirement, the entire practice loses the discounts.  These exclusivity contracts deprive consumers of the best healthcare, suppress competition, and prevent new and potentially more effective vaccines from entering the market.

This has real world consequences.  For example, pediatricians who agree to purchase vaccines from Merck cannot offer their patients Cervarix, which is produced by GlaxoSmithKline, and is more effective than the better known Gardasil, produced by Merck, at protecting against the human papillomavirus.  A meningitis vaccine studies indicate is more effective for certain patients similarly is unavailable. 

Sloan continued, “Parents assume doctors are making drug decisions based on the patient, but in fact, they are making decisions based on the price.  That will be cold comfort to a young woman who discovers she might have avoided cervical cancer if only she’d received the right vaccine as a girl.”

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