In battle over vaccine patent rights, David beat Goliath

WASHINGTON — They’ve plastered a pharmaceutical CEO’s face on the side of a rented truck to protest “corporate welfare.” They’ve purchased Johnson & Johnson stock so they could attend the company’s annual shareholder meeting, at which they politely protested high drug prices and executive pay. In recent days, they’ve picketed the headquarters of vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna.

Yet for all their incitement, progressive groups like Oxfam, Public Citizen, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and Doctors Without Borders have long been seen by mainstream Washington more as irritants than power players in debates over health care. Before this week, the notion of a small-dollar advocacy coalition landing a major blow against the pharmaceutical industry seemed more likely to play out in an Aaron Sorkin drama than in real life.

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