House Democrats Press for COVID-19 Clinical Trial Transparency

“Dire consequences could result if any eventual authorization or approval of a vaccine is influenced by political pressure and is not based on sound science,” three leading congressional Democrats wrote last week to nine pharmaceutical companies currently developing COVID-19 vaccines. The politicians are seeking further information about the companies’ research and development efforts, as well as how they intend to ensure that only a safe and effective product will be made available to the public.

The House Committee on Energy & Commerce leaders wrote to the nine pharmaceutical companies that recently signed a pledge committing “to developing and testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles.” The pledge was signed by representatives of AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, and Sanofi.

“We appreciate your company’s efforts to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and value the commitments your company and [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] leadership have made to uphold the scientific integrity of the approval process,” the Committee leaders wrote in their letters. “While we look forward to the timely availability of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine that the public can trust, we are concerned that increasing political pressure threatens this achievement. We implore you to fulfill the commitments you made in your announcement to ensure science and safety drive the process. We also strongly encourage you to take steps to make the process more transparent in order to regain the trust and confidence of the American people in a future COVID-19 vaccine.”

Experts have noted the absence of a commitment to transparency or other means of accountability in ensuring the companies keep the pledges they made.

As part of their inquiry, the Committee leaders requested answers to a series of questions by October 2, 2020.

Edited by Michael Causey