The rapid emergence of vaccines and therapeutics in response to the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic demonstrated the value of medical innovation. These advances not only led to enhanced patient welfare by reducing the disease’s mortality and morbidity but also reduced the need for costly prevention measures, such as cuts in economic activity. This paper offers the first estimate of the portion of economic value generated by these medical innovations that was appropriated as earnings by the innovating companies, measured by the ratio of company earnings to the overall societal value generated by the innovations. To estimate the value and appropriation of COVID-19 innovations, one must necessarily make assumptions about what disease-specific and preventive activity would have been in the absence of these new innovations. To obtain robustness in our findings across such scenarios, we estimate industry appropriation across a wide range of counterfactual scenarios that would occur under no innovation. These scenarios include previous assessments of the contributing subparts of the value generated by the innovations. Our primary finding is that, within the large range of these counterfactual scenarios, upper-bound measures of the proportion of value appropriated by the industry ranged from 0.2% to 4.6%. Even though these are upper bound appropriation rates, they are significantly lower than have been documented for other significant health sciences innovations. This suggests that COVID-19 vaccines and treatments were remarkable, not only in their swift development but also in the considerable societal value they provided, which extended far beyond the rewards to the innovating companies.

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