Jeremy Corbyn announces plan to set up a state-run drugs manufacturer to sell cheap medicines to the NHS
- Corbyn said new action is part of a bid to ‘put public health before private profit’
- Companies who don’t oblige would be threatened with losing research grants
- Industry warned it could force British drugs firms to move abroad – costing jobs
Jeremy Corbyn last night vowed to take on pharmaceutical giants by setting up a new state-run drugs manufacturer to sell cheap medicines to the NHS.
In the most radical announcement from his conference speech, the Labour leader promised tough new action as part of a bid to ‘put public health before private profit’.
He said a Labour government would threaten drugs companies with losing research grants if they refused to hand over their medicines at budget prices.
Jeremy Corbyn vowed to take on pharmaceutical giants by setting up a new state-run drugs manufacturer to sell cheap medicines to the NHS (stock image)
In his 45-minute keynote speech yesterday, Mr Corbyn also:
- Vowed there would be ‘no more tinkering around the edges’ as he pledged to take on ‘the financial speculators, tax dodgers and big polluters’.
- Insisted Labour’s Brexit policy, the subject of a major row at conference, was ‘not complicated’.
- Warned against sending troops to Saudi Arabia, claiming UK military action in the Middle East ended up ‘spreading conflicts rather than settling them’.
- Pledged to rip up trade union laws within 100 days of entering office, making it easier for workers to go on strike.
- Condemned the ‘harsh and uncaring’ Tories and claimed Boris Johnson is part of an ‘elite that disdains democracy’.
- Accused Mr Johnson of playing on fears by comparing veiled Muslim women to ‘letterboxes or bank robbers’.
One of Labour’s plans for the pharmaceutical industry is to overturn patents on newly discovered wonder-drugs (stock image)
One of Labour’s plans for the pharmaceutical industry is to overturn patents on newly discovered wonder-drugs, allowing other firms to come in and manufacture them at cheaper prices.
In the longer-term, they will establish state-owned factories to produce drugs at a much cheaper price than the large companies are willing to charge.
But economists warned that the plan could make treatment worse for patients – because pharmaceutical firms, deprived of their profits, would be less likely to spend money on researching life-saving drugs.
And the pharmaceutical industry warned it could force British drugs firms to move abroad – costing jobs.
But economists warned that the plan could make treatment worse for patients – because pharmaceutical firms, deprived of their profits, would be less likely to spend money on researching life-saving drugs (stock image)
Matt Kilcoyne, of the Adam Smith Institute, said: ‘Undermining patents will undermine care for patients.
‘Drugs are very expensive, time-consuming things to create – but the capitalist system has produced more techniques and more medicine than ever before in history, with more people living longer and better lives as a result.
‘Less profit from discovering medicines will lead to fewer new medicines in future.’
Kate Andrews, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘Removing all profit motive from healthcare is likely to worsen problems that already exist in the NHS.’
Mr Corbyn told the conference in Brighton about the case of nine-year-old Luis Walker, who suffers from cystic fibrosis and who cannot access a beneficial drug because it is too expensive for the NHS.
‘Every day he needs at least four hours of treatment and is often in hospital, keeping him from school and his friends,’ he said. ‘Luis’ life could be very different with the aid of a medicine called Orkambi. But Luis is denied the medicine he needs because its manufacturer refuses to sell it to the NHS for an affordable price.
‘Luis, and tens of thousands of others suffering from illnesses such as cystic fibrosis, hepatitis C and breast cancer, are being denied life-saving medicines by a system that puts profits for shareholders before people’s lives.’
Luis’ mother Christina Walker said: ‘I’m pleased to see Labour are willing to explore every alternative to tackle this access to medicine crisis. I call on the Government and other parties to do the same.’
The Labour leader confirmed that the party would scrap prescription charges for people in England, as well as a £6billion free personal care plan for the elderly.
And he added: ‘My parents’ generation fought hard to establish the principle of a universal health service owned and run by the public.
‘They left it in our trust. It’s our duty to defend it. We will end the sell-offs and privatisation. Our NHS is not for sale, not to Trump or anyone else.’
Steve Bates, a special adviser to Labour health secretary John Reid in the 2000s, said: ‘NHS patients and the UK economy would both lose the chance of new life-saving treatments if the UK becomes a hostile environment for intellectual property.’