Flanoz, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

November 11, 2020; National Public Radio (NPR)

On the same day that Pfizer announced that it has developed an experimental vaccine that is 90% effective, sending stocks soaring, Pfizer chairman and CEO, Albert Bourla, sold $5.6 million worth of stock, raising serious questions about what the executive knew and when.

Apparently, Bourla implemented his stock trading plan on August 19th, the day before the company made another big announcement that reported that Pfizer and its partner BioNTech were “on track to seek regulatory review” for its vaccine candidate by this month. News reports at that time reported that the stock was “moving sharply higher today on an optimistic vaccine timeline.”

Insider trading expert Daniel Taylor commented that “It’s wholly inappropriate for executives at pharmaceutical companies to be implementing or modifying 10b5-1 plans the business day before they announce data or results from drug trials.”

NPR has previously reported a similar situation at another vaccine maker where executives sold tens of millions of dollars in Moderna stock immediately before making a big announcement.

“It’s troubling to me that the general counsel or the internal controls of these companies would consider it legitimate to adopt a 10b5-1 plan one day before a major vaccine announcement,” said Taylor. “If this isn’t a wake-up call for the SEC [US Securities and Exchange Commission] and a wake-up call that we need to reform these 10b5-1 plans, I don’t know what it is.”

Recently NPQ has reported a great deal on the odd isolationism that has surrounded the process of vaccine development in the United States. Over the past few years, we have covered numerous stories on efforts of nonprofits to break the profiteering stranglehold of big Pharma, including one on antibiotics and articles on the emergence and growth of nonprofit Civic Rx. But this story reinforces the need to look more closely at the policy and enterprise based options available for doing just that.—Ruth McCambridge