Rising drug prices are now more than twice the entire NHS deficit


18 May 2017

It’s not just government cuts bleeding the NHS dry, big pharmaceutical companies are leeching more and more money from our health service. Every year the NHS is handing over billions of pounds to big pharmaceutical companies. And that amount is going up by a staggering amount every year. Between 2011 and 2016 the amount the NHS spent on private drug companies rose by £3.8 billion. That is more than twice the total NHS deficit (£1.85bn).

Medicines keep getting more expensive. Double-digit annual price hikes of drugs have become the new normal in the health industry. And contrary to what the massive pharmaceutical PR machine wants us to believe, this is not reflected in increased innovation; the reality is much more sinister than that.

Skyrocketing drug prices are nothing less than an under-the-carpet privatisation of health services. We’re handing billions of pounds a year over to multinational corporations, money that could be going to paying for more nurses or more hospital beds. Instead, that money is going to multi-million pound hand-outs to corporate executives, huge dividends to shareholders and massive marketing campaigns to make it all appear acceptable – some pharmaceutical companies spend twice as much money on marketing as they do on researching and developing new drugs.

It’s not without reason that the pharmaceutical industry has developed into the most profitable industry in the world. With lucrative international patent laws, they can effectively take patients hostage and ask huge ransoms from health services, while leaving hundreds of millions of people globally without treatments.

One example of this is the new breast cancer drug, Kadcyla which can extend the lives of women with terminal breast cancer. At the end of last year, the drug was rejected for use in  NHS England due to its staggering price tag of £90,000, making it the most expensive of cancer medicines.

And this is not the first time that drugs companies have charged the NHS extortionate prices. Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority fined the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer and distributor Flynn Pharma a record £89.4 million for charging ‘excessive and unfair prices’ for an epilepsy drug. The NHS had paid £2m for the epilepsy medicine in 2012, rising to £50m in 2013 as its price was hiked up by an eye-watering 2,600% .

There is another way. We taxpayers fund most innovative medical research in the first place. We need to keep the drugs coming from that are effective and affordable rather than handing over blank cheques to massive multinational drug companies to make killer profits of our NHS and patients around the world. It’s high time politicians wake up to this covert privatisation of our NHS and our health.

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