What Is Jezza Burbling About Over Drugs, The NHS And Trade Deals?

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I’m having a really hard time understanding what it is that is being moaned about over the NHS, drug prices and trade deals. Corbyn’s making a large deal out of what I can’t see as being a problem in the slightest:

There is a plot against our NHS. Boris Johnson is engaged in a cover-up of secret talks for a sell-out American trade deal that would drive up the cost of medicines and lead to runaway privatisation of our health service.

US corporations want to force up the price we pay for drugs, which could drain £500m a week from the NHS. And they demand the green light for full access to Britain’s public health system for private profit.

Our public services are not bargaining chips to be traded in secret deals. I pledge a Labour government will exclude the NHS, medicines and public services from any trade deals – and make that binding in law.

Mega-corporations see Johnson’s toxic alliance with Donald Trump as a chance to make billions from sick people in Britain and around the world. His hard-right Brexit plans depend on a corporate-driven trade deal with America post-election.

The basic allegation doesn’t make sense.

US negotiating objectives demand “full market access” in the UK for American pharmaceutical companies: meaning an end to drug price controls in plain language. Trump has complained loudly about what he calls the “unreasonably low prices” other countries pay for medicines, and the US insisted on including pharmaceuticals in recent trade deals with Canada, Mexico and South Korea.

Does the NHS pay less for drugs? Sure it does. But what does a trade deal have to do with that? Whatever trade deal is concluded the NHS will have the ability to say “No, thank you” to whatever price someone tries to charge. As it does now.

For this is what it does. That new cystic fibrosis drug, they’ve said it’s too expensive, we’re not buying it. So, they’re not buying it. How does any trade deal at all change that?

Do note that market access means just what it says. Access. It doesn’t mean forcing someone to sign the cheque. It just says that foreigners get the same rights to present their offer as locals.

Now, of course, it’s possible that there’s something else behind this. But here’s the thing – this is all based upon Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now. He’s the reference point for all these allegations of what a trade deal might mean. And he’s full of the most entire colei on all trade related subjects. That is, given the source, I simply do not believe any of the claims in the slightest.

So, anyone care to explain how, exactly, a trade deal pushes up the cost to the NHS of drugs? How does “full market access” alter the ability of the NHS to negotiate prices? Yes, I am aware that American law bans Medicare from negotiating prices but that’s not a trade deal.

Anyone care to explain to us the details of this claim?

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Pat
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Pat

If your starting position is that state provision is virtuous as no one gets paid, and private provision is evil, as the private provider gets paid, then it makes perfect sense.
Not a position from which you or I would start, but hey.

jgh
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jgh

‘No-one gets paid’ is charity provision, which the socialists declared to be evil, so they replaced it with the NHS.

jgh
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jgh

As I keep saying, only in an insane world would a purchasing manager pay twenty quid for bandages from duPont in America when they can pay ten quid for the same bandages from Smith & Nephew in ‘ull.

Jim
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Jim

I had exactly the same thought. Nothing is stopping the US pharma companies demanding higher prices right now. The NHS wouldn’t pay them so they wouldn’t get any sales, so they don’t. A large volume of low price sales is better than zero volume of high priced sales. I can’t see what mechanism could be put in a ‘free trade’ deal that would force a UK purchaser to buy US products at higher prices.

Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

None of these guys are talking about ‘free trade’. It is all ‘managed trade’, with lots of not-free details. That is why it took 8 years for Canada and the EU to negotiate their “Free Trade” deal. The larger point about drug prices is that US pharmaceutical companies for decades have been charging full cost (including R&D) in the US while charging only marginal production cost to the Rest of the World. That may have made sense decades ago when the US was a much larger part of global GDP, but it does not make sense today. Eventually, everyone is… Read more »

The Mole
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The Mole

My understanding trying to pick this apart is that the US drug companies want NICE to stop having the ability to define the cost/benefit level of treatment causes so that they can sell drugs at prices which are more than their clinical benefits. I assume what they want is the ability of individual doctors/hospital pharmaceutical boards to be able to make case by case decisions based on emotions as much as scientific clinical opinion so that the NHS starts wasting money (assuming NICE does do a reasonable job at setting the correct level). Or in economic terms they want an… Read more »