Thursday, 2 February 2012

More Big Pharma cuts

It has been announced today that AstraZenica, the giant Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company, is to cut 7,300 jobs throughout the world, including in the UK, where it employs 8,000 people. This is part of a continuing trend. Between 2007 and 2009 the company lost over 12,000 jobs. The current programme of cuts, which began in 2010, sees over 9,000 jobs being lost.

All Big Pharma companies are now contracting rapidly. Profits are still huge, but they are falling. There has to be concern and sympathy for all those people who are going to lose their jobs. And, of course, this contraction of the industry is seen my many to be damaging to the UK economy.

Yet in terms of health, it represents the beginning of the end for conventional, drug-based medicine (ConMed). AstraZeneca have admitted that it is losing patients - to competition - and they expect their losses to continue. In reality, their drugs are either coming to the end of their patents (and so are less profitable), or they are failing because they have been found to be either ineffective, dangerous, or both. And they have no new 'wonder' drugs coming through.

Yet the problem for the Big Pharma companies is doubly serious. The 100-year-plus belief that 'science' would ultimately solve the problem of health is certainly in tatters, with little prospect of it being revived. But in addition, as the profitability of Big Pharma decline, and their industrial and commercial power declines alongside, especially to countries such as the UK, so to will the influence that ConMed will have on Government health policy, in the 'monopolistic' commissioning arms of the NHS, and even in editorial censorship that exists within the mainstream media on matters of health.
What this means is that as Big Pharma companies decline, their ability to buy influence and power, and to dominate national health services, will also decline in the future.
A more rational health debate might become possible, a situation is which the variety of medical therapies will be allowed to demonstrate their worth to patients on the basis of their efficacy, effectiveness and safety - and not on the basis of political and industrial muscle.