Imagine a disability almost disappearing if you flew out of the Global South. I have severe haemophilia, a genetic condition that interferes with the body’s ability to clot after bleeding. When left untreated, anything — even a bruise or merely sitting down — can trigger a bleed, internally or externally. Anti-clotting injections can stop this. However, outside the advanced West, these injections are sold at exorbitantly high prices. When I was a child in India, my parents couldn’t afford such treatment, so they’d bury my bleeding joints under piles of ice to freeze them. Almost all the bleeds I experienced in India were left untreated, resulting in permanent damage to my joints and internal organs. In the U.K., the NHS home-delivers me these injections twice a month. This global medical apartheid is created and perpetuated by pharmaceutical monopolies.
The barriers that certain intellectual property rules can generate – preventing the fair distribution of vaccines and medicines – are a recurring theme in debates on global health. Traumatic experiences such as the HIV/AIDS treatment access crisis in the 90s, the global rationing of hepatitis C treatment in 2014, and the unfair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are concrete examples of the right to health being systematically violated when monopolies over medical technologies are established and exercised arbitrarily. It is urgent to recognize, expose and confront the abuses that are committed in the patent system that result in death and suffering for millions of people. In Brazil, we are currently experiencing a situation of triple abuse, which threatens the populations’ access to dozens of essential medicines.
So I know that I’m supposed to cover the Most Censored News and the fact that massive new studies show antidepressants don’t do nearly what we were told they do is on the cover of Newsweek does not exactly count as the most censored news. But I’ll get to the censored part in a minute. Newsweek reports, “In 2019, one in eight Americans—43 million in all—were taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), and those numbers have likely risen among a public ridden with COVID-induced anxiety.” In fact, over the past few years, so many people were demanding Zoloft that the FDA warned there would be a shortage. Think about that, one in eight Americans are on antidepressants, and assuming almost all of those people are 18 or older, 43 million is actually one in every six American adults. That is insane.
From July 19-21, activists from across the globe gathered in Istanbul for the second edition of the Global Summit on Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines (GSIPA2M). This event is a biennial gathering organized by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) and Make Medicines Affordable consortium to hold critical debates and discussions on ensuring that intellectual property rights don’t undermine equitable access to lifesaving medicines. At the summit, one thing became crystal clear: the challenges of the Access to Medicines (A2M) movement are diverse and enormous. They include Big Pharma’s unstoppable greed and influence over governments, multi-stakeholder initiatives usurping the role of UN institutions, and insufficiency of national-level laws and institutions.
MPLP was established in 1971 by a group of physicians who were also members of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA). They did this because they felt the need to translate words to action, to ensure that healthcare is accessible to the people who need it, and this included a way of providing people free health consultations. They started the first health house in Antwerp, and since then, we have managed to establish 10 more health houses, guided by the same ideals from more than 50 years ago. There are many more health workers working with MPLP now, too, and not only physicians: nurses, psychologists, they’re all part of our teams now. But of course, during this time, a lot of things changed: the impact of social determinants of health developed in one way, the pharmaceutical industry changed a lot, and so on.
As major pharmaceutical executives and investors convened virtually on Thursday for their annual shareholder meetings, campaigners took to the streets in the U.S., the U.K., India, South Africa, and elsewhere to condemn major drug companies for hoarding technology and prioritizing profits over equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines. Outside Pfizer's U.K. headquarters, activists dropped mock sacks of money and positioned wheelbarrows full of fake cash near the building's entrance to denounce the New York-based company's opposition to tech transfer initiatives and other efforts to expand coronavirus vaccine production in developing nations, where billions have been denied access to the shots. Pfizer has also faced backlash for obstructing African countries' attempts to study Paxlovid, the company's oral anti-viral treatment for Covid-19.
Under the Build Back Better Act, Congress can expand and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, improving the lives of millions of seniors while also throwing a lifeline to folks living in states where GOP politicians are strangling public benefits. But to win these popular reforms, we have to defeat the efforts of Big Pharma, their greedy lobbyists and the politicians who take their money. It wasn’t enough for Democratic Representatives Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Scott Peters of California, Kathleen Rice of New York and Stephanie Murphy of Florida to vote against a robust bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3).
Last Friday, three days before a crucial meeting of the World Trade Organization, progressives in the trade, faith, labor, consumer, and human rights communities sent an urgent request to the Biden administration. These nonprofits and unions are urging the administration to act quickly to assert its leadership on a pressing trade issue—whether trade rules will be allowed to hamper global efforts to combat the pandemic. In a letter and a press event, a coalition of 400 organizations asked President Joe Biden to make good on his promise to “absolutely positively” ensure access to vaccines in the developing world. They asked him to support a temporary waiver on requirements that give drug companies lengthy monopoly protections, as well as the right to decide where the vaccines will be made and who will receive them.
Washington - Drugmaker Purdue Pharma, the company behind the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin that experts say helped touch off an opioid epidemic, will plead guilty to federal criminal charges as part of a settlement of more than $8 billion, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. The deal does not release any of the company’s executives or owners — members of the wealthy Sackler family — from criminal liability, and a criminal investigation is ongoing. Family members said they acted “ethically and lawfully,” but some state attorneys general said the agreement fails to hold the Sacklers accountable.
Far too many people have suffered and died because our medicines and medical products system was not prepared to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with prompt and universal access to reliable tests, treatments, and vaccines. Governments, non-profits, and industry in the U.S. and around the world are working furiously to catch up. But their efforts have been hampered by fundamental flaws in our profit-driven pharmaceutical industry. For Americans with diabetes, cancer, asthma, infectious diseases, mental illnesses, and a myriad of other health issues, those flaws have been causing suffering and even death for decades.
The American profit-based healthcare system impacts us in more ways than just our gargantuan bill at the excretion end of an emergency room visit. Right now, our lovable idiotic inhumane healthcare system is acting as a hurdle to the manufacture and procurement of the right drugs to treat Covid-19. One of the drugs currently trumpeted as our savior is remdesivir. Despite sounding like the name of a Hobbit in Middle Earth, some reports from the corporate media make it sound like the drug will thrust us face-first into a fresh world of happiness — water parks and restaurants and random no-holds-barred make-outs with strangers. A world where when someone sneezes, we don’t dive under our desk with an adult diaper strapped on our face as a makeshift mask.
The U.S. has bought up almost all of the stock of remdesivir from Gilead, making it nearly impossible for this COVID-19 drug to be available anywhere else in the world. After making America sick again, Trump is trying to compensate for his administration’s failure by buying Gilead’s production for the next three months for the U.S., leaving nothing for the rest of the world. This makes it all the more urgent for India and other countries that featured prominently in previous drug license fights against Big Pharma in the U.S. and around the world for more than a decade to break Gilead’s patent and issue compulsory licenses to manufacture the drug locally. The patent laws of most countries and the World Trade Organization’s 2001 Doha Declaration have clear provisions for compulsory licensing during a health emergency or an epidemic. COVID-19 obviously qualifies on both accounts.
A potential treatment for the coronavirus was granted exclusive status to Gilead Sciences by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. Remdesivir, a drug it is developing to treat the illness, is now “orphan” status, which allows the pharmaceutical company to profit exclusively off the drug. The designation of this drug, which is “generally reserved for drugs that treat rare illnesses affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans,” was eligible for “orphan” status in this case since the rapidly spreading virus had yet to “spread beyond that limit,” Common Dreams reported. On Monday, 40,000 Americans were stricken with the coronavirus when the FDA granted Gilead Sciences exclusive claim. By Tuesday afternoon, confirmed cases in the United States jumped to 51,000.
March 10 – As COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreads, it is a clear reminder that germs and viruses don’t respect national boundaries in an interconnected world. But the mainstream press has certainly not publicized how corporate capitalism and imperialism cross national boundaries to destroy people’s health.
The news that cannabis is effective in treating most types of pain is shaking business and political institutions. Politicians and investors must come to grips with Big Pharma losing money due to the rise of cannabis. The findings could have huge consequences for medical practice and public policy. For example, cannabis could reduce the number of accidental overdoses and providing avenues for critically ill patients to re-enter the workforce.