[Ip-health] Financial Times: Corbyn promises state drugs company to supply NHS

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Sep 24 23:54:46 PDT 2019


Corbyn promises state drugs company to supply NHS
Labour leader seeks to make medicines ‘affordable for all’

Jim Pickard and Sebastian Payne in Brighton and Sarah Neville in London

A Labour government would create a state-owned generic drugs company to
supply cheap medicine to the National Health Service, Jeremy Corbyn has

The leader of the opposition used his set-piece speech at the Labour party
conference to announce the initiative, dubbed “Medicines For The Many”,
which would force established drugs companies to compete with the
publicly-owned drugs maker.

A Labour government would also legislate to force pharmaceutical companies
to make their medicines “affordable for all” if they wanted public research
funding, he said. It would also use compulsory licensing to secure generic
versions of patented medicines.

The move came after Labour promised earlier in the week to scrap
prescription charges if it gets into power.

During his speech, the Labour leader highlighted the case of nine-year-old
Luis Walker, who has cystic fibrosis.

“Luis’ life could be very different with the aid of a medicine called
Orkambi,” said Mr Corbyn. “But Luis is denied the medicine he needs because
its manufacturer refuses to sell the drug to the NHS for an affordable

Richard Torbett, executive director of Commercial Policy at the Association
of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the situation on Orkambi was
rare “but it is clearly unacceptable, and a solution needs to be found for
patients and their families”.

However, he said “compulsory licensing — the seizure of new research — is
not the answer”.

Dr Torbett argued it would completely undermine the system for developing
new medicines. “It would send a hugely negative signal to British
scientists and would discourage research in a country that wants to be a
leader in innovation,” he added.

Responding to Mr Corbyn’s speech, Orkambi maker Vertex said: “It is our
belief that invoking Crown use and providing third parties with access to a
company’s intellectual property, would not represent a quick solution for
patients and is not a mechanism for the provision of medicines at a lower

It would significantly weaken incentives for future innovation
industry-wide and possibly affect the UK’s position as a hub for investment
in biotechnology, the company argued.

“Importantly, in this case, it would seriously undermine Vertex’s ability
to achieve our goals to treat the underlying cause of CF for all patients
and ultimately discover a cure,” it said in a statement.

Mr Corbyn moved his speech from Wednesday to Tuesday after the Supreme
Court ruled that Boris Johnson had acted unlawfully, effectively wrapping
up the Labour conference early. The ruling was a bright spot for the Labour
leader following several days of factional infighting and disagreements
over Brexit policy.

Mr Corbyn told delegates to get ready for a general election, declaring:
“Together we’ll take on the privileged and put the people in power”.

Defying negative opinion polls — which suggest that Labour is trailing far
behind the Conservatives — he insisted that “the tide is turning” and that
the “years of retreat and defeat” were coming to an end.

Mr Corbyn outlined a vision for a Labour government that would take on
“financial speculators, tax dodgers and big polluters” to the benefit of

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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