December 1, 2023

United States President Joe Biden speaks about the 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine administered in the United States during a milestone commemoration event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 25, 2021.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

The lobby group, which represents several top pharmaceutical companies last month, silently launched a campaign against President Joe Biden and his decision to forego intellectual property protection for Covid-19 vaccines.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA, is a political advocacy group that represents over 30 pharmaceutical companies, including Covid vaccine makers Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. It launched a digital advertising campaign on Facebook and Google late last month targeting Biden’s decision, a CNBC search of the companies’ advertising archives revealed.

While PhRMA blew up the Biden government’s move shortly after the announcement, the group officially announced no campaign against the waiver. The details of the operation still had to be reported.

Proponents of foregoing patent protection say it will allow poorer nations to ramp up production of the Covid vaccine.

A PhRMA spokesperson did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Biden is named in PhRMA’s advertisements on Google.

“Biden’s Harmful Vaccine Stance” was one of the Google ads reviewed by CNBC. “Biden’s Damaging IP Stance” is another Google spot.

CNBC policy

Read more about CNBC’s political coverage:

Google’s ad archive shows that one of the ads on the search platform cost the group between $ 1,000 and $ 50,000. The others are under $ 100. Both targeted the area in and around Washington, DC, according to Google.

Every Google ad was live for up to five days by the end of May, according to the search engine’s ad transparency report.

The Google ads refer to articles written by PhRMA’s public affairs team and posted on the group’s website. One of the posts is entitled: “The Biden Administration allows politicians to reverse a pragmatic response to a pandemic.” The article claims that “not only will these policies do nothing to save lives around the world, but it could also have harmful effects on American patients.”

Another PhRMA post cites a poll from a Hill-HarrisX poll that shows 57% of registered voters who took the poll oppose the waiver.

Facebook’s advertising library shows that PhRMA has spent over $ 245,000 on digital spots since late April and throughout May. A fraction of that spend went into ads that ran in late May aimed at Biden’s decision.

The Facebook ads all had the same message: “The removal of IP protection is undermining our global response to the pandemic and putting security at risk.” According to the social media giant, a spot had a potential reach of up to 1 million people. This ad was targeted at people in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. The PhRMA Facebook Ads are currently inactive.

Even before the start of the digital advertising campaign, PhRMA was actively lobbying the Biden White House on the question of the patent waiver.

Q1 lobbying disclosure reports, spanning Biden’s month of inauguration through March, show PhRMA lobbying the President’s Executive Office and health and social services on “international intellectual property and market access issues” among others Has.

PhRMA spent just over $ 8.5 million lobbying in the first three months of 2021. Data from the bipartisan Center for Responsive Politics shows the organization spent over $ 25 million in 2020 and nearly $ 30 million in lobbying spending in 2019.