US: Bankers, Pharma Look to Capitalize off Coronavirus

Published: 23 March 2020

Protective Nurse AttireInvestors discuss raising prices of protective gear used by medical practitioners (Public Domain)

By Eli Moskowitz

As millions in the United States experience economic despair in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, recent reports show that the pharmaceutical industry, banking executives on Wall Street, and politicians are exploring ways to profit.

The Intercept reported on Thursday based on a series of recordings from corporate boardrooms where investors can be heard putting pressure on pharmaceutical companies to inflate the prices of drugs that might be deemed effective in treating the symptoms of coronavirus.  

In one recording, Steven Valiquette, a managing director at Barclays Investment Bank, was heard inquiring whether it was possible for executives from Cardinal Health – a prominent distributor of masks, ventilators and pharmaceuticals – to raise prices on its products.  

Valiquette also joked that one “silver lining” of the Coronavirus outbreak is that Cardinal Health would receive less questions about lawsuits related to its alleged role in perpetuating the US opioid crisis.  

Concerns remain about the US government response to medication and medical supplies that have experienced increased demand due to the pandemic, including masks and eye protection that are needed to protect doctors and nurses from the virus. 

The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that state governors and public health advocates have encouraged the Trump administration to enact the Defense Production Act, which would financially compel companies to produce more neccessary medical supplies and prevent drastic price increases.