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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 November 2006

Don't 'unfetter' drug giants

THE WHITE House is lobbying Blair's government to give the world's pharmaceutical giants - largely US-owned - unrestricted access to the NHS as part of the package of 'free market' health service reforms.

The giant drug companies claim they are 'held back' by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) which vets the use of drugs in the NHS. Whatever criticism we have of NICE, the pharmaceutical companies' 'unfettering' could destroy the health service.

As an article in the socialist earlier this year pointed out, "the pharmaceutical multinationals have great power and influence and make great profits. The top ten drug companies - 'Big Pharma' - are American, British, Swiss and French. In 2002 the combined profits of Big Pharma in the Fortune 500 list were more than the profits of the other 490 businesses put together.

"In 2002 the worldwide sale of prescription drugs cost $400 billion. A large proportion of these sales were in the USA. Without a national health service and where many low-paid jobs come without medical insurance, many workers in America have to trade off taking medicines against paying for health and food."

New Labour's converts to market-led health services have done quite enough damage without imposing US customs on the NHS. The drugs companies spend little time or money on research, development and innovation compared to academic institutions and spend gross sums on marketing.

If Blair's poodle-like instincts to White House instructions survived Bush's calamitous elections, health campaigners will need to remind him that the pharmaceutical companies, pharmacy chains and medical supply industry drain quite enough from the NHS already.

We call for the nationalisation of the drugs industry and its integration into a democratically controlled National Health Service.

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In The Socialist 16 November 2006:

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Don't 'unfetter' drug giants


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