Gates Foundation Sells Off Most of Its Healthcare, Pharmaceutical Holdings

During the quarter that ended June 30, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sold off almost all its pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and healthcare investments, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to a regulatory filing published last week, the foundation sold its entire holding of 2.5 million shares in Johnson & Johnson during the quarter, 14.9 million shares in Schering-Plough, almost a million shares in Eli Lilly & Co., and 3.7 million shares in Wyeth. The only life science-related holding the foundation retained was a three-million share stake in Seattle Genetics, Inc.

The foundation's decision to drastically reduce its exposure to health-related stocks is significant, given its role in funding public health initiatives around the world, and comes at a time when drugmakers and insurance companies are anxious about the impact of a proposed overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.

In early 2007, the foundation was criticized for not doing enough to pressure pharmaceutical companies it invests in to make sure drugs get to the places where they are most needed.

Jessica Hodgson. "Gates Foundation Sells Off Most of Its Health-Care, Pharmaceutical Holdings." Wall Street Journal 08/14/2009.