Loz Kaye : Drug Prices are Harming Patients

Right across the continent health budgets are under pressure due to austerity programmes. In the UK, a leading group of cancer experts has spoken out saying huge drug prices charged by pharmaceutical companies are putting patients at risk. The message is stark. Over 100 physicians have warned reasonable prices are “a necessity to save the lives of patients who cannot afford them”.  

But in Jeremy Hunt's National Health Service there is no fight for reasonable prices. For example, there's no arguing that the costs of the latest Leukaemia drugs are eye watering. As reported in the Independent, Pfizer's Bosulif costs £76,000 a year. The price tags increase, Ariad's 90 grand a year for Iclusig, Teva's 100 thousand for Synribo. 

What price can you put on someone's life? Quite rightly, we would fight tooth and nail to give our loved ones any chance to survive. But the real question is why these drugs should cost that much at all. The pharmaceutical industry depends on the patent system, which grants years of monopoly for each new product.

t's supposed to be about making new molecules. But what the patent system has ended up doing in healthcare is carving out areas of illness real estate that no-one else can come on to. This keeps prices high. Each area is fiercely protected and marketed. Science writer Ben Goldacre has estimated that about a quarter of what we pay for pharmaceuticals goes on marketing. This system makes perverse incentives to suppress unfavourable trial results, to spend R and D money on drugs similar existing ones to extend patents and to stop successful cheaper drugs being available.

The argument has always been that companies are given exclusive power over life giving drugs because it  allows them to get back their investment.  

Thousands Take to Streets Over Health Cuts

"A New Movement Is Forging"

One of Britain's biggest cities has been witnessing its largest-ever protest - as health cuts draw tens of thousands onto the streets. It's timed to catch members of the governing Conservative Party, who're descending on Manchester for their annual conference. We talked to one of Sunday's protesters to ask what has got the crowds fired up.

Sunday, 29 September, 2013 - 01:00

An evidence based approach to alcohol education

Our current alcohol education methods create the negative response to drinking alcohol. An evidence based approach to educating young people about alcohol and the impact it would both improve education and make it more likely for those who find that alcohol has a negative impact on their lives to seek help.

Equality in blood donation

Restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men should be lifted. The focus must be on individual screening and making sure as many people as possible can donate blood and save lives.

Address LGBT health challenges

LGBT people face multiple serious health challenges. The Pirate Party aims to follow the lead of countries like Norway that have comprehensive LGBT public health plans with clear goals. We also need to end the stigma around HIV/AIDS and initiate a national campaign to normalise HIV testing as a routine part of caring for our health.   

Widen public access to Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT)

A trial to make computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT) freely accessible by anyone via the Internet should be undertaken. This resource is available already through the NHS, but you must be referred by a GP to gain access. If found to be effective it would allow anyone who feels they may benefit by access to do so. This may help people who are reluctant to go to their GP over mental health concerns get the help they need online for free while maintaining complete anonymity.

Bring appropriate support services back into the NHS

The general public broadly trusts the NHS to deliver services. We all trust the NHS with our lives. In return for that trust, the NHS should ensure that it is using the funds apportioned to it as effectively as possible, even when an effective service isn't the cheapest option.

All the skills to deliver healthcare from start to finish, from cleaning to surgery and from transport to transplants, should be available within the NHS.

Abolishing drug patents

We aim to abolish drug patents, which will reduce drug costs drastically, since all drugs would become generic. This innovation would save the NHS vast sums of money; part of that saving will then be used to subsidise drug research.

The pharmaceutical industry currently spends around 15% of its patent drug income on research; we would support that expenditure with subsidies made possible in savings from the NHS. This will increase research budgets, while still saving the NHS money.

Securing the NHS for now and the future

The Pirate Party will require that any legislative, administrative or other changes to the NHS do not have a negative impact on the NHS's primary principles: that it meet the needs of everyone; that it be free at the point of delivery; and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

Changes to the NHS should be based upon evidence, not ideology. Changes should come from within the health establishment and the NHS wherever possible, with evolutionary change driven by a continuous, democratic and open discussion within the service.

Cancer Drug Prices "Harming Patients"

Wednesday, 1 May, 2013 - 16:45

A group of 100 leading cancer specialists have spoken out about high prices for cancer drugs. Some chronic myeloid leukaemia treatments approved in the US, but not licensed in the UK range between £76,000 and £100,000 per patient per year. The cost of the drug Gilvec has in fact risen since all the original research costs were covered.

In the journal Blood the physicians say that the unsustainable expense "may be causing harm to patients" and are advocating that reasonable prices are "a necessity to save the lives of patients who cannot afford them".


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