Pharmaceutical companies to give evidence on responses to Covid-19

The pharmaceutical companies who led the research and development of life-saving Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics, will today give evidence to the European Parliament on the role they played, and the lessons learned in responding to Covid-19, as well as the actions taken to prepare for future health crises.

Representatives from AstraZeneca, Gilead, Moderna and Sanofi will use the hearing to share industry and personal experiences of being at the epicentre of the Covid-19 global response. 

You can follow proceedings at the following link here.

Strong collaboration between Industry, academia, research bodies, NGOs, regulators, governments and the EU were critical. They facilitated seven WHO approved vaccines at pace and in unprecedented quantities – 12 billion doses by the end of 2021 – and seven WHO approved therapeutics. Voluntary licensing has allowed swift scale up of manufacturing across the globe.

These partnerships with industry must continue; they are key to securing a future where everybody is better protected from pandemics and health crises, companies will say.

The industry has also set out a number of important recommendations based on the learnings from the pandemic, so that it is prepared in the future.

In the short-term Industry believes that strengthening healthcare system capacities, addressing vaccine hesitancy and improving public education of vaccines will be vital.  Continued R&D and testing of efficacy of current vaccines and treatments against variants of concern remains vital. 

In the longer term, working with the Commission to ensure that Europe has a dynamic and well-funded research eco-system – delivered through the revision of the pharmaceutical legislation will be critical, as well as strong intellectual property rights – which were fundamental in delivering vaccines and therapeutics for Covid-19.

Industry would also like to see the regulatory flexibilities which ensured swift approvals of vaccines continued. And, while the creation of a European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) is a first step to putting Europe on the front foot in addressing global health threats, it is important that it is appropriately funded.

As well as the evidence and data highlighting the work undertaken to deliver vaccines and therapeutics to treat and prevent Covid-19, it will also hear of the industry’s collective effort to ensure global supply chains remained resilient.

Companies worked around the clock in highly challenging circumstances, as demand for vital medicines to support Covid-19 patients soared around the world, whilst maintaining clinical research and the flow of medicines for many other diseases.

The hearing also provides an opportunity for companies to call on the Commission to use the revision of the pharmaceutical legislation to support innovation and protect life sciences – ensuring Europe remains resilient.

Speaking ahead of the hearing, Nathalie Moll, Director General, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), said:  “Pharmaceutical companies were front and centre of the pandemic response: From day one they worked in extremely challenging circumstances, to deliver new vaccines and therapeutics and to maintain an uninterrupted supply of vital medicines to patients all over the world.  

Decades of research – and collaboration on an unprecedented scale – made it possible to develop seven WHO approved vaccines and seven new therapeutics, delivered at pace and scale with manufacturing partners across every continent.

It is these partnerships and continued investment in life science which will ensure Europe remains resilient in future health crises.

We look forward to working with the European Parliament and our partners to implement the lessons learned from the pandemic.”

AstraZeneca: Iskra Reic, Executive Vice President Vaccines and Immune Therapies, said: “Globally, there has been an industry-wide effort to save countless lives and decisively change the course of the pandemic. At AstraZeneca, we are proud to have played our part. Our Covid-19 vaccine is estimated to have saved more than six million lives during the first year, and our long-acting antibody has protected hundreds of thousands of immunocompromised people, enabling them to return to a more normal life.

Looking forward, we are working with partners across the EU as part of a global public-private collaboration to provide learnings from the pandemic and strengthen the resilience and sustainability of health systems for future generations.”

Rudolf Ertl, Senior Vice President, Commercial operations, Australia, Canada and Europe, Gilead Sciences, said: “Gilead is very proud of its ongoing contribution in the fight against COVID-19. When we first began to hear about the novel coronavirus, it set into motion an unprecedented effort by teams across Gilead.

Early research in remdesivir combined with more than 35 years of expertise in virology, provided Gilead the foundation and experience to move quickly to evaluate remdesivir as a potential treatment for this new coronavirus and to initiate and complete clinical studies in COVID-19 in record time. In parallel, our teams urgently scaled up and accelerated the complex manufacturing process required to produce remdesivir and meet the critical need worldwide.”

In Europe, we were very pleased to be the first company to agree a European Joint Procurement Agreement for treatment which was an important instrument in ensuring rapid and equitable access to remdesivir for patients across the EU and other participating countries.”

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “With the world focused on the race against the virus, Moderna was committed to bringing our COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, to people across Europe safely and in record time.

The relentless work and collaboration with health authorities demonstrated that timely expertise and resources can significantly bring forward important regulatory approvals and access in case of public health threats. This collaboration is crucial to harnessing the power of mRNA and enhancing global health security.”

Thomas Triomphe, Executive Vice-President of Vaccines, Sanofi, said: “Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is under better control, thanks to the efficient collaboration between the public and private sectors. European ambition should now go beyond a health emergency perspective, towards a comprehensive life science strategy for Europe, securing investments to generate capacity, technological leadership and jobs in Europe.”