Pfizer is a multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. Pfizer uses its power and legal muscle to enforce neoliberal trade agreements and intellectual property/patent protection regimes, maximizing its profits while denying peoples in Global South nations affordable access to life-saving and life-improving medicines.
During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pfizer was complicit in Israel's withholding of covid-19 vaccine doses from the over 5 million Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and blockade in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Over 100 Palestinians rights groups correctly characterized Israel's denial of vaccine access to Palestinian populations living under Israel's rule as “discriminatory, unlawful, and racist.” In January 2021, Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq wrote a letter to Pfizer urging Pfizer to make a public statement "stressing that all peoples under Israel’s effective control must have their inalienable right to health respected and vindicated," and noting that Israel's current denial of equitable vaccine access to Palestinian populations may "amount to a targeted policy of racial discrimination.” Pfizer made no statements and took no actions to pressure the Israeli government to provide vaccine access to Palestinians.
Israel's denial of vaccine access to Palestinians was not the result of scarcity of vaccine doses in Israel. On the contrary, between the stock of vaccine doses it received from Pfizer and Moderna, Israel was left with a surplus of unused covid-19 vaccine doses to spare. However, instead of prioritizing vaccine access to Palestinians living under its rule, Israel chose to redirect excess vaccine doses to nations including the Czech Republic and Honduras, in exchange for those nations committing to move their diplomats from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, part of the ongoing Israeli effort to claim sovereignty over the whole of the city of Jerusalem as the "eternal capital of the state of Israel."
Pfizer's complicity in medical apartheid is not limited to Palestine. Pfizer has leveraged its control over desperately-needed vaccine stock to bully nations in South and Central American and the Caribbean into putting up their sovereign resources as collateral to cover potential future legal costs Pfizer could incur were Pfizer to engage in fraud, gross negligence, mismanagement, or failure to follow good manufacturing practices. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism notes: "In the case of one country, demands made by the pharmaceutical giant led to a three-month delay in a vaccine deal being agreed. For Argentina and Brazil, no national deals were agreed [to] at all. Any hold-up in countries receiving vaccines means more people contracting Covid-19 and potentially dying." One Argentinian official involved in negotiations with Pfizer noted: "It was an extreme demand that I had only heard when the foreign debt had to be negotiated, but both in that case and in this one, we rejected it immediately."
In 2018, Pfizer fought to retain its patent over production of the prostate cancer drug Xtandi in India. Pfizer insisted on its right to block generic production of the drug in India, in spite of the fact that its brand-name drug cost nearly 30 times India's per capita income. As Alternet reported, while "Xtandi sticker prices rang(e) from $30,000 (Canada) to more than $130,000 (the U.S.)," there were "Indian companies that stand ready and able to start producing generic versions of Xtandi for as little as $200 per course," inhibited only by Pfizer's insistence upon maximizing its corporate profits while Indian people died preventable deaths.
Pfizer occupies numerous buildings in Cambridge MA, including a 500,000 square feet building it leases from MIT in Kendall Square (East Cambridge). By gobbling up Cambridge real estate and moving its white collar workforce into the city, Pfizer (along with other university, biomedical, and tech giants) is driving up housing, rental, and general living costs in Cambridge (see figure below), leaving long-time city residents (Black and Brown and working class residents in particular) increasingly unable to afford to remain in the communities they have called home for years if not decades.
(Image source: here)