The Biden administration’s official support for a global waiver on patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines has irked allies in the pharmaceutical industry, who see the move as a dangerous encroachment on the intellectual property rights of drugmakers—and as proof that the president is less interested in pleasing big industry donors than they might have hoped.
“The WTO is the final arbiter, thank god,” texted one pharmaceutical company executive who maxed out their donations to the Biden campaign in 2020, noting that they were “annoyed but not surprised” that the administration backs “expropriating” intellectual property in the name of public health.
Biden was a major beneficiary of pharmaceutical dollars during the 2020 presidential campaign, both during the Democratic primary and the general election against President Donald Trump, despite “absolutely positively” supporting a vaccine patent waiver as early as July of last year. The president raised nearly quadruple what Trump did from employees of the pharmaceutical industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, despite not accepting donations from corporate PACs. It was the first time in decades that Democrats raked in more from Big Pharma than Republicans.