Aug 5, 2020 - Health

Moderna skirts disclosures of coronavirus vaccine costs

Moderna's red logo above doors at its headquarters building.

Photo: Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Moderna has not been living up to contractual obligations to disclose the percentage of taxpayer dollars that are funding its coronavirus vaccine project, but the pharmaceutical company tells Axios that federal money makes up "100% funding of the program."

Why it matters: Moderna has received almost $1 billion in taxpayer grants to get its vaccine through clinical trials and is considering setting the highest price of all coronavirus vaccine candidates.

Driving the news: Moderna's contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of Health and Human Services, includes a provision that requires Moderna to "clearly state ... the percentage of the total costs of the program" financed with federal vs. private dollars.

  • Moderna has not done this in any of its press releases tied to its coronavirus vaccine.
  • Two consumer advocacy groups, Public Citizen and Knowledge Ecology International, are now pushing HHS to "enforce the provision in this contract and all other applicable contracts."

Between the lines: This provision is commonly called the Stevens Amendment, and it turns out the federal government has done a poor job of enforcing it, according to a Government Accountability Office report from last year.

What they're saying: HHS did not say if it issued Moderna an exemption from this provision, only saying in a response:

  • "Moderna provides the required acknowledgement to the federal government for funding and other support provided to develop the vaccine. The company would need to identify for you what percentage of this specific contract is federally funded. We continue to collaborate with companies as they put out press releases to ensure accurate information."

Moderna said in multiple responses that it "request[s] BARDA review for each of our press releases or other disclosures before we issue ... and are comfortable that the information included in our public disclosures is consistent with BARDA's expectations."

  • Moderna said the language in its original BARDA funding press release — "BARDA will fund the advancement of mRNA-1273 to FDA licensure" — "made clear the extent of BARDA's 100% funding of the program."
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