Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A lab technician sorts blood samples for Covid-19 vaccination study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida on August 13, 2020. (Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

'Like the Wolf Saying He'll Guard the Henhouse': Big Pharma CEO Insists Industry Can Police Itself on Covid Vaccine

"The public needs to be able to trust that decisions for the vaccine development process are being based on science and public health, and drug company self-policing simply isn't good enough."

Jake Johnson

Amid growing concerns that the Trump administration is moving to bypass normal and crucial safety protocols in a rush to approve a Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the November election, the CEO of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. is insisting that the American public can trust the for-profit drug industry to police itself when it comes to developing a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.

In an interview with Axios that aired Monday night, Eli Lilly chairman and CEO David Ricks said the pharmaceutical industry is "not going to make something or we're not going to sell it until we've proven to our own standards it's safe and effective, subjected it to scientific scrutiny from the outside world"—a promise one watchdog group dismissed as "like the wolf saying he'll guard the henhouse."

"The revolving door between the drug industry and the Trump administration has been spinning so fast that it's hard to see where the interests of one end and the other begins."
—Eli Zupnick, Accountable Pharma

"The revolving door between the drug industry and the Trump administration has been spinning so fast that it's hard to see where the interests of one end and the other begins," Eli Zupnick, spokesperson for Accountable Pharma, said in a statement. "The public needs to be able to trust that decisions for the vaccine development process are being based on science and public health, and drug company self-policing simply isn't good enough."

Ricks, who is also the chairman-elect of PhRMA—a massive pharmaceutical lobbying group—said it would indeed be "very concerning" if drug companies were making decisions about potential Covid-19 treatments and vaccines based on "non-medical or scientific" considerations. But Ricks denied that's the case, even as public health experts are warning that the Trump White House is actively skirting safety regulations and politicizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for electoral purposes.

"I think our industry has an interest in preserving that as an objective process," said Ricks, whose company is currently working with—and receiving funding from—the federal government as the pharma giant runs a Phase 3 clinical trial for a potential coronavirus treatment.

Ricks' remarks come days after FDA chief Stephen Hahn told the Financial Times that his agency would be willing to authorize a Covid-19 vaccine even prior to the completion of Phase 3 clinical trials—but insisted that it would not do so solely to appease the president.

As Common Dreams reported Monday, Hahn's comments drew swift backlash from scientists and public health experts. Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York, tweeted that "we absolutely cannot tolerate or accept an emergency authorization for any Covid-19 vaccine without reliable safety and efficacy data from Phase 3 clinical trials."

Bypassing established safety procedures in the interest of speed, warned Rasmussen, "would place huge numbers of people at risk for massive potential harm."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Tipping Point of No Return' Feared as Amazon Rainforest Fires Surge

"Up to now, the Biden administration has only legitimized the Brazilian government's anti-Indigenous and anti-environmental agenda," said Greenpeace USA.

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Urged to Embrace Windfall Tax as Exxon Says Profits Doubled in Second Quarter

"It's time for the president to demand that Congress pass a windfall profits tax on Big Oil and use the revenue to provide rebates to consumers NOW!" wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·


'What's There to Even Discuss?' Omar Says Free, Universal School Meals Should Be Permanent

"We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things. And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it."

Jake Johnson ·


'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo