‘Big Pharma’ and the future of the NHS

Government reform will mean multi-million pound opportunities for pharmaceutical companies in the provision of goods and services to the NHS in the UK.  As The Independent reported on the criminal wrong doing of drug companies and The Guardian  on GlaxoSmithKlines fine of $3 billion dollars, for admitting to bribing doctors to encourage the prescription of unsuitable antidepressants to children, and now reports that GSK  concealed data about the damaging side effects of the drug Avandia, I am wondering should we be worried about the increased influence and role of such companies in reforming the NHS?

A central tenet of the health care reforms is the introduction of ‘any qualified providers’, which within a few weeks will force PCTs to let private firms provide NHS services.  This means the Department of Health will take the most potentially lucrative, standardised, high volume and low risk treatments provided by the NHS and offer these up to private companies, the Americans charmingly refer to private providers who deliver such treatment as ‘focused factories’.  These healthcare companies will already have had some influence on deciding which treatment will be handed over to the private sector, for example companies like 2020Health  who have links to the two big pharmaceutical companies Pfizer (fined over 2 billion dollars since 2009 for criminal wrongdoing) and Lilly.   There is evidence to suggest pharmaceutical companies explicitly determine which health care problems are publicised and researched to maximise their profits.

Such downright unethical practice is linked to profit.  Pharmaceutical companies appear driven by a different set of moral and ethical standards than most professionals working in the health service.  The government is effectively asking advice from the market on creating a market for its products, which may actually damage patients health.   It  would appear on both sides of the Atlantic government considers the big pharma companies  not only too big to fail in providing services, but too big to jail!

All I want is honesty and integrity, and some accountability, and not accountability in the form of a fine which is actually a pittance and will do nothing to change the business culture within these organisations.

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About digalpin

I gained my social work qualification from the University of Southampton and worked for 14 years in mental health, disability and older people services. I am currently a senior lecturer in post-qualifying social work at Bournemouth University and am conducting research on government and societal attitudes and responses to the mistreatment of older people in health and social care provision for my doctorate. My views are my own.

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