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In a pointed rebuke to Pfizer, Doctors Without Borders has rejected an offer by the big drug maker to donate 1 million doses of a pneumonia vaccine because such a move might “undermine long-term efforts” to increase access for people in poor countries. Instead, the organization pushed once again for Pfizer to lower its price.

The rejection follows seven years of haggling with Pfizer over its Prevnar 13 vaccine and comes one month after GlaxoSmithKline agreed to cut the price of its own pneumonia vaccine. The decision was posted in an essay on Medium this week by Jason Cone, Doctors Without Borders’s executive director in the United States, who called the move a “difficult task” before explaining his reasoning.


“Free is not always better,” he maintained. Notably, he argued that donations can include restrictions on distribution. Cone also suggested that companies use donations as an excuse for maintaining existing pricing. And he fretted that donations can remove incentives for other companies to enter the market for a particular product, which means less competition that can also lower pricing.

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  • DWB started out with the noble objective of bring medical care to underserved parts of the world. Over the years they have devolved from a medical group to a political advocacy group, and this story is a good example of how their devolution has come at the expense of the people they were supposed to serve.

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