Healthcare US style… or how neoliberalism really works

US healthcare pills and dollar billsRichard Falk is retired and lives in Santa Barbara, Califormnia

Along with several million, I suffer from the eye disease known as glaucoma. It can be managed, rather than cured, by taking eye drops several times a day. Based on the advice of my doctor, I rely on Azopt and Lumigen, two drugs produced by leading pharmaceutical companies.

A week ago, prior to an international trip, I stopped at a local pharmacy to renew my prescription of Azopt (produced by a Texas company Alcon that manufactures 86 drugs) because I feared that my supply would be exhausted during the trip. A day later the pharmacist called me back to say that my insurance would only cover the refill in mid-March when according to their records I should have finished the supply I had, and would be entitled to more. She added that the for 15 ml. of Azopt without insurance I would have to pay $445, which is double what it would cost after the insurance kicked in. I thanked her for letting me know this bad news, saying that I would wait until next month. Continue reading

Might AstraZeneca break the capitalist drug that money always wins?

DrugsDare one say it, but the tide is slowly but perceptibly moving in AstraZeneca’s direction. A week ago, despite Pfizer being untrustworthy with flimsy pledges on jobs and R&D which could be ‘adjusted’ if ‘circumstances significantly change’ and despite the deal being more about US tax arbitrage than the British national interest, it looked a near-racing certainty that the US predator would prevail.

Cameron, batting (as Thatcher would say) for the US and against Britain, had abandoned any stance of neutrality and was doing his best to egg on the deal at any cost, while the fund managers who control most of the AZ shares, were salivating at the prospect of  fat, short term gains. They miscalculated.  Not only was the British science community understandably up in arms, but opinion in the UK has swung strongly behind AZ, matched by serious concerns in Sweden (from which the Astra part of AZ originated) and even more importantly outright hostility in the US Senate because of loss of US jobs if big American Pharma moved its HQ to Britain and opposition to US firms relocating to escape US taxes. So might money this time actually lose out? Continue reading

Stopping Pfizer takeover of AstraZeneca is test case for safeguarding UK strategic interests

DrugsIt is incredible that a US company can quite openly flaunt a major British strategic company as a bargaining chip to reduce its internal US tax liabilities. But that is exactly Pfizer’s position in trying to take over AstraZeneca, Britain’s second biggest pharmaceutical company which alone provides 2.3% of UK exports, £2.8bn of UK R&D, and 7,000 jobs. Pfizer has a notorious record in buying up rivals – Warner-Lambert in the US, Pharmacia in Sweden, and Wyeth also in the US – and then scrapping jobs and shutting down research facilities wholesale, most relevantly for the UK its closing down its big research unit at Sandwich in Kent with the loss of 2,400 jobs. Continue reading

Instead of charging for the NHS, try cutting the costs of privatisation

Disaster looms for NHSLet’s get one thing straight from the off. The idea of charging a £10/month NHS “membership fee” is bloody stupid. Not just because it violates the principle that health provision should take place, but for a whole host of other practical reasons. But let’s glide Lord Warner’s suggestion into a lay-by for the moment and deal with the concern he aims to address: that the NHS budget is spiralling out of control and something has to be done to arrest it. Continue reading

Antibiotics and a crisis for capitalism

mixture of several pillsLast March 2013, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies gave the stark warning that antimicrobial resistance poses “a catastrophic threat“. Unless we act now, she argued, “any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics. And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.” Continue reading