Joe Biden is No Revolutionary. But He has Recognised that 'Pharmanomics is Killing Us'
Nick Dearden examines how Big Pharma's greed harms global health and looks at what can be done about it.
A beaming President Biden told a press conference at the end of August, “We’ve been fighting Big Pharma for a long time. A long time… We had finally enough votes, by a matter of one, to beat [them].”
The US president had just announced that he would, in effect, push down the price public insurance pays for key medicines used to treat diabetes, blood cancer and kidney disease, saving millions of Americans and the federal government a small fortune.
Biden will only be doing what is already common in many European countries, where it is taken for granted that public authorities can negotiate the price of drugs, constraining what drug companies can charge. But Biden’s stance is nonetheless hugely significant in a country where, for many decades, Big Pharma has had free rein to charge whatever the market will bear for life-saving products. You can see how big this moment is from in the public anger of the pharmaceutical giants, which have launched multiple legal actions across the country to protect their exorbitant prices.
So what has happened to the cosy relationship that American politicians have had with an industry that, until recently, they regarded as key to both their physical and economic well-being? And what will it mean for a Labour government in the UK, where rapidly rising prices for branded medicines are already pushing the NHS to breaking point?
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