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Pieces Together

PROFITS BEFORE HEALTH

"The drug industry is overpricing vital new medicines to boost its profits, the chair of the health watchdog Nice warns today in an explosive intervention into the debate over NHS rationing. Professor Sir Michael Rawlins spoke out after critics last week accused the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) of `barbarism` for refusing to approve expensive new kidney drugs for NHS use, on the grounds that they were not cost-effective. In an outspoken interview with the Observer, he warned of `perverse incentives` to hike the prices of new drugs - including linking the pay of pharmaceutical company executives to their firm's share price, which in turn relied on keeping profits healthy. Traditionally some companies charged what they thought they could get away with," (Observer, 17 August)

 

CAPITALISM KILLS

"People are dying "on a grand scale" around the world because of social injustice brought about by a "toxic" combination of bad policies, politics and economics, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday. Avoidable health problems caused by social factors – as opposed to biology and genetics – are causing large-scale health inequalities in the UK, the WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health has found after a three-year study. Evidence showed that a boy born in the relatively deprived Calton area of Glasgow was likely to live on average 28 years fewer than one born a few miles away in Lenzie, a village by the Glasgow-Edinburgh railway. Life expectancy at birth for men in the fashionable north London suburb of Hampstead was found on average to be 11 years longer than for men born in the vicinity of nearby St Pancras station. Adult death rates were generally 2.5 times higher in the most deprived parts of the UK than in the wealthiest areas." (Independent 29 August)

 

CAPITALISM IS AWFUL

"There is a lot more poverty in the world than previously thought. The World Bank reported in August that in 2005, there were 1.4 billion people living below the poverty line — that is, living on less than $1.25 a day. That is more than a quarter of the developing world’s population and 430 million more people living in extreme poverty than previously estimated. The World Bank warned that the number is unlikely to drop below one billion before 2015. The poverty estimate soared after a careful study of the prices people in developing countries pay for goods and services revealed that the World Bank had been grossly underestimating the cost of living in the poorest nations for decades. As a result, it was grossly overestimating the ability of people to buy things. And the new research doesn’t account for the soaring prices of energy and food in the past two years." (New York Times, 2 September)

 

MODERN TIMES

"Over the past five years alone, the average earnings of chief executives of FTSE-100 companies have doubled to £3.2m. Their pay has been rising five times faster than their employees'. The top 1 per cent of the population now enjoy 23 per cent of national wealth, while the poorest half share a mere 6 per cent. For most of the 20th century, Britain became steadily more equal. For the past three decades the movement has been in the opposite direction and it is estimated that Britain's wealthiest person, Lakshmi Mittal, is worth more than twice as much as anybody in the past 150 years." (New Statesman, 11 September)