Monday 23 November 2020

Fixing our Health - a hope. Fixing the Market - a certainty



Pfizer and BioNTech have jointly announced that their COVID-19 vaccines had 90% efficacy in clinical trials. Similar announcements from the Russian Sputnik V and Moderna vaccines followed. 


The Lancet reports that, “2020 has been a year of incredible scientific achievement. In less than 12 months, researchers have developed diagnostics, produced treatment protocols, and established the efficacy of drugs and vaccines in controlled trials.”


Is the prospect of preventing illness and death, and avoiding the harm and misery of restrictions, a cause for optimism?

There remain uncertainties as to how the vaccines will affect the course of the pandemic. How well will the vaccines work on older people or those with underlying medical conditions? What is the duration of protection and will boosters be needed?

Pfizer and BioNTech have been joined by Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Roche, Moderna, Concordia (Advanz Pharma), Actavis, Teva and many other companies in attempts to develop vaccines and treatments.

I have checked out the list of pharmaceutical companies involved and can happily report there are no pest control businesses involved and none with personal connections to Dominic Cummings or Michael Gove.

But even if we feel secure about these companies medical competence, can we be assured we will not have a repeat of the corrupt £ millions handed out in Covid and PPE contracts?

Check HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE

This comes down to the heartbeat of the capitalist system, whether it be the sale of cat food or sleeping tablets. Money and profit.

The BBC reports that Concordia “overcharged the NHS by millions for a key thyroid treatment”. The Competitions and Marketing Authority (CMA) have added that Concordia and Actavis “fixed the market for hydrocortisone tablets.”

Two years after a bribes scandal in Poland and Romania in 2012, GSK was found guilty of paying bribes to doctors and hospitals to promote the company's products in China. They were fined £300 million.

The same year GSK paid $3 billion (£1.9 billion) in criminal and civil liabilities in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history and in 2016 the firm paid $15 million to US authorities to settle new allegations of bribery.

Roche have been accused of price rigging in their vitamin trade. In 2019 a lawsuit was filed in the US by 44 states, claiming price fixing for dozens of generic medicines. A total of 20 pharma companies were cited in the lawsuit – including Teva and Pfizer – all accused of ‘multi-billion dollar fraud’.

Although some Covid-engaged companies have promised to limit profits from the COVID-19 pandemic, Pfizer and the other companies I have referred to above have made no such commitments.

 A reader has commented - "Oxford/Astra Zeneca are part of Covax and ‘no profit’ is a fundamental part of their deal with the University. Their vaccine should be globally available at an affordable price." 

Yes and let's hope their vaccine, assuming its viability, will be widely available. The corruption surrounding earlier Covid / PPE contracts and the neglect of the non-profits, the biggest being the NHS itself, does not suggest optimism.