The image of some health care workers wearing trash bags for personal protection has become an enduring symbol of the government’s failed response. Yet the government paid Emergent $626 million in 2020 for products that included vaccines to protect against a terrorist attack using anthrax.
For much of Emergent’s two-decade history, its primary product has been an anthrax vaccine, first licensed in 1970, that the company purchased in 1998 from the State of Michigan. Over time, the price per dose that the government agreed to pay Emergent increased nearly sixfold, accounting for inflation.
Ms. DeLorenzo previously defended the company’s pricing as fair. “You can’t protect people from anthrax for less than the cost of a latte,” she wrote in an email.
Emergent’s sales to the government in 2020 also included a new anthrax vaccine that has yet to be approved as safe and needed special clearance to be stockpiled. In the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration awarded about $3 billion in long-term contracts to the company; last year, the government agreed to pay the company more than $600 million to manufacture other companies’ coronavirus vaccines at its facility in Baltimore. Emergent is now manufacturing coronavirus vaccines for AstraZeneca as well as for Johnson & Johnson.
Emergent, whose board is stocked with former federal officials, has deployed a lobbying budget more typical of some big pharmaceutical companies, The Times found. It has sometimes resorted to tactics considered underhanded even in Washington. Competing efforts to develop a better and cheaper anthrax vaccine, for example, collapsed after Emergent outmaneuvered its rivals, documents and interviews show.
Ms. DeLorenzo characterized the company’s lobbying as “education-focused” and “appropriate and necessary.”