Pfizer Inc. argues it should have a say in a lawsuit seeking information about its COVID-19 vaccine to ensure trade secrets and confidential commercial information are not disclosed.
A group of doctors and scientists sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in federal court in Texas, seeking details about the FDA’s licensing of the vaccine. Pfizer’s lawyers told U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman that the company should be allowed to join the case so it can help the FDA avoid “inappropriately” disclosing trade and corporate secrets.
The doctors and scientists who sued the FDA argue it’s too early for Pfizer to join the case because no one is challenging redactions made to the records requested in the lawsuit. The judge has ordered the quick release of hundreds of thousands of documents in the case, noting it’s “of paramount public importance.”
The FDA told the court it believes Pfizer can help the agency navigate the “unusual and indeed extraordinary circumstances of the case.” Government agencies like the FDA control the release of documents under the federal public records law, but companies like Pfizer can challenge and sue to block the release of certain information.
The federal judge will consider Pfizer’s request and is expected to address concerns raised by the FDA about his order to start releasing 55,000 pages of documents monthly in March. The FDA previously proposed releasing 500 pages a month in response to the lawsuit, a schedule that would require more than 50 years to complete. Pfizer argues its intervention in the lawsuit “will help accelerate the release of documents.”
Pfizer stated in its court filing that it supports public disclosure of the FDA records related to its vaccine “to promote transparency and the public’s confidence.”
But lawyers with Siri & Glimstad, a New York boutique firm that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency, argued Pfizer doesn’t need the court’s permission to help the FDA. The company can support the agency’s efforts to release the records without intervening in the lawsuit. The lawyers said they wouldn’t fight Pfizer’s intervention if the “involvement is limited to prevent delay or prejudice.”