Pharma companies have become vocal about social issues in recent years, championing access and affordability and launching initiatives to address diversity, but in the weeks since the United States’ Supreme Court’s overturn of the Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion the industry’s reaction has been far from consistent. While certain companies were quick to issue statements, others have remained silent and the industry as a whole has not positioned itself.
After over two-thirds of Americans said they wanted to uphold Roe v. Wade, according to a Wall Street Journal poll, with a majority supporting legal abortion for any reason, the Supreme Court voted to strike down the landmark decision which has led to a ban in several US states. For many, the decision will further aggravate existing health inequities in a country with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. But how is the biopharma industry reacting?
Some companies came out with statements almost immediately after the ruling. Johnson & Johnson issued a general statement saying that “… health care decisions are best determined by individuals in consultation with their health care provider,” and went on to ensure that it would offer coverage of employees’ travel expenses for medical services not available within 100 miles of their homes, including reproductive healthcare.
Similarly, Sanofi sent an email to its employees stating that the company would “… respect each person’s privacy and right to make their own healthcare decisions” and said that it would cover travel and lodging for their staff to access “certain healthcare services and treatments.”
Pfizer, on the other hand, has not clearly positioned itself when just months before the Supreme Court decision, the Tara Health Foundation claimed the company’s stated values on women’s health were not aligned with its political spending: “Pfizer manufactures contraceptives and a drug commonly prescribed as an abortifacient. Yet Pfizer has been a top contributor to a 527 organization that funds state legislators’ efforts to implement extreme anti-abortion measures,” read their Shareholder Proposal for Pfizer 2022 Proxy Ballot re Political Contributions Misalignment.
Neither Bristol Myers Squibb nor Roche have issued official statements about the ruling, or the reproductive rights of their employees. When queried, Novartis said the company was still evaluating how the decision may impact the care of its employees and GSK recognized the extent of the ruling’s implications, saying the company would continue to offer its employees coverage for reproductive health, including travel and lodging.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has not yet made a joint statement on behalf of its members. The lobby group told PharmaBoardroom it was not a topic it was ready to weigh in on.
With all of the legal issues and human resources concerns that stand to arise from the decision, not to mention the greater impact on reproductive health, it remains to be seen how the pharma industry will face the issue going forward.