The Price Debate

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, February 2022 Issue, Volume 46, Issue 2

As company revenues are gaining a boost from COVID-19, the issue of pricing is being debated once more.

Drug pricing has long been a contentious issue within the bio/pharma industry and has, in fact, provided politicians with good fodder for campaigns. Currently, with some countries ahead of the curve in terms of COVID-19 treatment programmes and others lagging way behind, the issue of pricing is once again peaking.

For… An evidence report from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) has found that the prices of four COVID-19 treatments for mild-to-moderate disease were ‘reasonably aligned’ with the benefits they offer patients (1). In the ICER report, cost-effectiveness of the COVID-19 treatments was projected by estimating the relative treatment effectiveness from the pivotal trials of each therapy and then applying those estimations to a common ‘usual care’ comparator arm.

None of the four treatments evaluated (sotrovimab [Xevudy, GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology], molnupiravir [Lagevrio, Merck & Co.], nirmatrelvir/ritonavir [Paxlovid, Pfizer], and fluvoxamine [Luvox/Fevarin, Upsher-Smith Laboratories]) had base-case results that exceeded US$100,000 (€87,400) per quality-adjusted life year gained and equal-value life year gained (1). Furthermore, the report authors specify that there may be other benefits afforded by the treatments that could not be fully accounted for within the economic model used.

However, the report authors also note that there are disadvantages to each treatment to be considered and that the cost-effectiveness of the treatments would be reduced significantly if used in populations with a lower-risk of infection (1).

Against… Looking at the other side of the argument, and in light of recent announcements of company profits, there has been patter about the potential of ‘pandemic profiteering’ (2). Pfizer has been singled out most recently by the democratic social justice organization, Global Justice Now, after the release of the company’s annual revenue information, which has been stated as being larger than the gross domestic product value of most countries (2).


In a press release, Global Justice Now revealed that Pfizer’s annual revenue has doubled to US$81 billion (€70.8 billion), which has been largely driven by the sales of the vaccine, Comirnaty (2). “It’s nothing short of pandemic profiteering for Pfizer to make a killing while its vaccines have been withheld from so many,” said Tim Bierley, pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now, in the release (2).


1. K. Yeung, et al., Special Assessment of Outpatient Treatments for COVID‑19,, Draft Evidence Report, 3 Feb. 2022.
2. Global Justice Now, “Pfizer Accused of ‘Pandemic Profiteering’ Amid Bumper Revenue,” Press Release, 8 Feb. 2022.

About the Author

Felicity Thomas is the European editor for Pharmaceutical Technology Group.

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 34, No. 2
February 2022
Page: 6


When referring to this article, please cite it as F. Thomas, “The Price Debate,” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 34 (2) 2022.