Surge in Corporate Profits During Pandemic

Imperialist Vaccine Pharmacare Reaps New Billionaires

Washington, DC, March 11, 2021

Big Pharma billionaires are cashing in as profits soar from sales of COVID-19 vaccines at exorbitant prices to governments around the world. A form of imperialist vaccine pharmacare in countries without independent human-centred pharmaceutical production has spread the COVID-19 vaccine of the global cartels to all but the poorest countries, pushing the cartels' profits and stock market prices to heights not seen before.

A handful of global pharma cartels have gained control over the thought material behind the vaccines and the vast productive capacity needed to produce the billions of doses. An international advocacy group called the People's Vaccine Alliance (PVA) warns that the various cartels of Big Pharma are using their control and connections with governments to dominate the supply and market price of vaccines. The cartels have pushed up their profits while making it harder for poor countries in particular to secure the stocks they need, while imperialist control blocks their ability to produce vaccines themselves.

The CEOs of Moderna and BioNTech top the list of nine Big Pharma oligarchs who have become billionaires with the rollout of vaccines against COVID-19. Many governments are using various forms of imperialist pharmacare to buy the vaccines from private producers and administer them free to the people. The free distribution of privately-purchased vaccines has vastly increased the sales and profits of the global Big Pharma enterprises, which in this case do not have to engage in their usual expensive advertising to push their drugs.

Forbes' Rich List has identified nine new Big Pharma billionaire oligarchs. They join a group of eight other pharma oligarchs who each already control social wealth in excess of a billion dollars. The nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion. PVA says the personal social wealth of those nine oligarchs alone would pay to vaccinate all people in low-income countries 1.3 times. Instead, countries identified as "poor" according to the United Nations have received only 0.2 per cent of the available global vaccine supply despite being home to 10 per cent of the world's population.

Big Pharma Billionaire Oligarchs

The newest Big Pharma billionaires are Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel and Ugur Sahin from BioNTech, with each now holding over $4 billion in social wealth. Others on Forbes' Big Pharma list of newest billionaires include three Moderna investors, the chair of a firm contracted to manufacture and package Moderna's product, and the three co-founders of the Chinese vaccine producer CanSino Biologics.

Eight other Big Pharma oligarchs, whose wealth had already topped the billion-dollar benchmark before the global pandemic hit, have seen their wealth grow significantly. The eight include oligarchs linked to China's Chongqing Zhifei Biological and Sinopharm, India's Cadila Healthcare and the Serum Institute of India, and holders of BioNTech stock.[1] The individuals named are joined in profiting from the pandemic by the global investor cartels, politely called "institutional investors," which own the lion's share of stock in the Pharma oligopolies.

Data from Forbes' The Richest People In The World list identifies the following Big Pharma oligarchs and the social wealth they control:

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna's CEO ($4.3 billion);
Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech ($4 billion);
Timothy Springer, investor in Moderna ($2.2 billion);
Noubar Afeyan, Moderna's Chairman ($1.9 billion);
Juan López-Belmonte Encina, Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine ($1.8 billion);
Robert Langer, investor in Moderna ($1.6 billion);
Zhu Tao, co-founder of CanSino Biologics ($1.3 billion);
Qiu Dongxu, co-founder of CanSino Biologics ($1.2 billion); and
Mao Huinhoa, co-founder of CanSino Biologics ($1 billion).

In addition, the eight existing billionaires with extensive investments in the COVID-19 vaccine pharma corporations have seen their combined wealth increase by $32.2 billion. PVA remarks that this amount is more than enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India. The eight include Cyrus Poonawalla, founder of the Serum Institute of India, whose wealth grew to $12.7 billion in 2021 from $8.2 billion last year, and Pankaj Patel who controls Cadila Healthcare. He saw his wealth expand to $5 billion this year from $2.9 billion in 2020.

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 6 - June 6, 2021

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