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Institutional investors tell Big Pharma to cooperate on coronavirus

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Institutional investors in 15 major pharmaceutical companies have called on the drugmakers to set aside rivalries and short-term interests and cooperate on finding solutions to the coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The investor group – which holds more than 1.9 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion) in assets and includes Nordea, Nomura, Boston Common Asset Management and Dutch pension fund PGGM – said it will send drugmakers including Roche (ROG.S), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Gilead (GILD.O), a list of principles it wants them to abide by for the coming year.

The list includes prioritising the development of tests, medicines and vaccines, working together on data-sharing, paying suppliers on time, understanding if customers have financial hardship and ensuring supply lines are working.

The group said in a statement dated April 16 that it had “unfortunately… seen some examples of priority being given to short-term financial and competitive considerations”.

Frank Wagemans, representing Achmea Investment Management, which has 147 billion euros in assets under management, told Reuters that the investors have “a range of opinions” on whether they might disinvest or what other actions they might take if a company is perceived to not be following the principles.

While drugmakers have sprung into action to try and come up with vaccines to treat the coronavirus and test for the presence of COVID-19 and other measures, investors say they need to do more.

“The negative societal and financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented and needs to be resolved soon,” the investor group said in its April 16 statement.

“Enforcing patents, excessive price setting, not disclosing relevant findings or securing extended market exclusivity through, for example, orphan drug designation should not run counter to this responsibility.”

Wagemans said that several additional investors intend to join the group, which will bring its collective investing power to 2.5-3 trillion euros.

He said companies would be receiving both general letters containing the principles, as well as tailored remarks discussing individual behaviour.

“This will be a primary subject in our conversations with companies over the coming two years,” he said.

“We will be following shareholders’ meetings with great interest.”

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Susan Fenton

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