Nationalise big pharma!, credit: (public domain) (uploaded 23/01/2019)
Nationalise big pharma!, credit: (public domain) (uploaded 23/01/2019)

Jon Dale, Mansfield Socialist Party

Two profiteering drugs companies have extorted a 2,600% price rise from the NHS for an essential epilepsy drug. In 2012, US giant Pfizer, and a smaller UK company, Flynn Pharma, increased the price of a 28-pack of phenytoin capsules from 66p to £15.74. Instead of the NHS spending £2 million on phenytoin in 2012, it paid about £50 million in 2013.

The companies could hardly claim expensive research as the reason for the price hike. Phenytoin was approved for epilepsy treatment in 1953!

After four years of blatant profiteering, in which time the companies banked an extra £170 million profit, a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation issued fines. Pfizer faced a record £84 million, and Flynn £5 million. Even though they were still up over £80 million, instead of paying up, the companies appealed!

Six years later, after another investigation, the CMA has cut the Pfizer fine to £63million and increased Flynn’s to £6.7million. The companies now intend to appeal again.

While they employ expensive lawyers to argue their case year after year, profits keep rolling in. It shows how toothless so-called regulatory bodies like the CMA are. Capitalism can’t be ‘regulated’.

Pfizer has made record profits from its Covid-19 vaccine, which many poorer countries can’t afford to buy. Its profits increased from $9 billion in 2020 to $22 billion last year.

Trade unions should demand drugs companies open their books to inspection. Let’s see how much profits they suck out of the NHS. We need a workers’ party fighting for a socialist programme of nationalisation of the pharmaceutical industry.

Public ownership and democratic planning on a global scale would ensure everyone could get the treatments and vaccines they need.