(Washington D.C., July 15) The Niskanen Center is proud to announce its endorsement of the Taxpayer Research and Coronavirus Knowledge (TRACK) Act of 2020, introduced by Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and co-sponsored by Francis Rooney (R-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

“Over the past five months, it has become abundantly clear that the development of a vaccine–or at least a highly effective treatment–is the only way to bring the U.S. back to a semblance of normalcy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Daniel Takash, regulatory policy fellow at the Niskanen Center. “To achieve this, the government must take the lead, and dedicate significant time and resources to the development of a vaccine or treatment. But taxpayers should also know to which researchers and manufacturers their money is going, and what patents will attach to these drugs.”

This is where the TRACK Act comes in. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to create a user-friendly database of support including–but not limited to– government contracts provided to pharmaceutical corporations for R&D related to COVID-19. Some of the data, like patents issued, are publicly available. But data on other forms of support are either unavailable or scattered across various sources, making comprehensive analysis of the government’s role in the pharmaceutical industry more difficult than it should be.

A wide disparity exists not only in the cost of drug development across categories, but also in the estimates of the costs themselves. A cost of $2.6 billion on average is oft-touted by PhRMA is the higher-range estimate, but other research has found the rate to be closer to $1 billion. 

Accountability is essential to inform whether government support for the development of pharmaceuticals has been effective and where that support should be directed in the future in the fight against COVID-19. The TRACK Act will give researchers, policymakers, and ordinary taxpayers the tools to examine where resources in this fight are being dedicated to better inform future support.

The Niskanen Center is a 501(c)(3) advocacy organization established in 2014 that works to change public policy through direct engagement in the policymaking process.