Category Archives: Health

Once more the European Union shows it is about protecting corporations not people

India produces cheap drugs which are life savers to vulnerable people. They can’t afford the prices imposed by the drug industry in western countries -as is the case with many living there. The European Union is about to stop all this by getting India to agree to stop supplying cheap copies and to accept licensing which helps the giant pharmaceutical industry amass their huge profits.
Industry revenues (Wikipedia)
For the first time ever, in 2006, global spending on prescription drugs topped $643 billion, even as growth slowed somewhat in Europe and North America. The United States accounts for almost half of the global pharmaceutical market, with $289 billion in annual sales followed by the EU and Japan.(pdf) Emerging markets such as China, Russia, South Korea and Mexico outpaced that market, growing a huge 81 percent.
US profit growth was maintained even whilst other top industries saw little or no growth.[18] Despite this, “..the pharmaceutical industry is — and has been for years — the most profitable of all businesses in the U.S. In the annual Fortune 500 survey, the pharmaceutical industry topped the list of the most profitable industries, with a return of 17% on revenue.”
Pfizer’s cholesterol pill Lipitor remains a best-selling drug world wide. Its annual sales were $12.9 billion, more than twice as much as its closest competitors: Plavix, the blood thinner from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis; Nexium, the heartburn pill from AstraZeneca; and Advair, the asthma inhaler from GlaxoSmithKline.
IMS Health publishes an analysis of trends expected in the pharmaceutical industry in 2007, including increasing profits in most sectors despite loss of some patents, and new ‘blockbuster’ drugs on the horizon.
Teradata Magazine predicted that by 2007, $40 billion in U.S. sales could be lost at the top 10 pharmaceutical companies as a result of slowdown in R&D innovation and the expiry of patents on major products, with 19 blockbuster drugs losing patent.

Water, water everywhere

It keeps being said, but reports like this indicate there is little action: we are destroying our planet. There are many headlines that drown the fact that polluted water resources are destroying life forms vital to our well being. The “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in portentous as the albatross guiding us out of trouble is shot as the wealthy nations and corporations continue control to exploit natural resources. Plenty of food but the world goes hungry. Plenty of water but our thirst cannot be quenched.
While emphasis has been placed on the degradation of major rivers of Africa and Asia the report belies self-satisfaction that those in industrialised USA and Europe have been cleaned up. Far from it. The author of the report says “he hoped the global report would highlight the need to address the root causes of the degradation of rivers. ‘We’re spending trillions of US dollars to fix a problem we’ve created in the first place. It’s much cheaper to treat the causes rather than the symptoms, which is what we do in the developed world today,’ Source Guardian.
Water has become another commodityused by the profiteers. You can turn it into sweet, sickly, poisonous beverages that sell bottles in billions. The life giving supplies dry up before they can reach araes once fertile and abundant with crops.

Cuban Medical Care in Haiti

Cuban medical care has been extended in Haiti and includes volunteers from across Latin America who are currently training, or have been trained in Cuba. There have been systematic vaccinations to combat the danger of disease spreading in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.
The help is not seen as short term as permanent hospitals are being set up in outlying regions short on doctors, and often supply of essentials such as water.
The Cuban medical staff are working with extremely limited resources yet they are seeing and treating a huge number of people with very serious injuries, performing operations and caring. This report is from CNN.

Advice and advocacy services go out of the window as commissioning takes hold

A report from the Baring Foundation, a grant giving body which helps voluntary organisations, now known by the authorities as “the third sector”, has criticised the commissioning system and commissioners.
I haven’t found anyone in the voluntary sector who likes being categorised as “third sector”. It smacks of patronage and fits in well with a view of voluntary organisations as being dependent on hand-outs and aid much as an internal “third world”. The irony is that the health service has long since recognised the need to work closely with community-based groups in order to reach the many in need of help and support. Mental health is a good example of an area of concern where much could be done in the community to give help and support to those known to be at risk. The Government gave a priority to supporting groups through its Delivering Race Equality (DRE) agenda. Commissioners were advised of the need to work closely with the community-based organisations. This well-paid group of people who have come into existence with the commissioning system make it their task to closely guard the scarce resources they administer. Yes quite so, but the effect has been to make it extremely difficult for many organisations with a long track record of care and in-depth knowledge of community needs to either disappear, or as the Baring report says, compromise their independence, vital for effective advice and advocacy services. Another trend has been for those in receipt of direct payments for the social care and health needs has been for them to have to pay for the advice services that were once free to them.

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Help for Haiti

Haitians don’t want the politisation of help they receive but at the same time wish to acknowledge who has been involved. The political process has certainly been at work in the western media questioning the role of near neighbours, ignoring significant acts of support. This report from Granma serves to illustrate how Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela’ s presence has contributed to international effort.
That Haitians recognised their Cuban doctors is illustrated in the story of the birth of a little one, Fidel, among the chaos.
The record needs to be set straight as some of those helping in Haiti have their own struggles to improve education and health in their own populations. UNESCO have reported on the success of Venezuela’s efforts to improve education there for example. Chavez has announced that Venezuela is writing off Haiti’s debt saying that it was not Venezuela in debt to Haiti, but Venzuela owed a historic debt to Haiti when Toussaint L’Ouverture overthrew colonial rule. The question remains, will others follow to take a huge burden off Haiti?

What happens when you leave ….. to the private sector? !. Health

There has been a lot of unhappiness about the outsourcing of contracts by the NHS not least to cleaning hospitals. Privatisation of public services always ends in tears whether railways, postal services, prisons, education, http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2008/10/post_11.html, you name it. Here more chickens have come home at Kingston Hospital. People living in the UK without papers have been employed and then payed below the already low rates of workers in the field. They have been kept silent by threats of exposure.
The union Unison has long campaigned about cut price cleaning in hospitals gathering evidence about increased infections resulting from it. The firm, ISS Mediclean, is contracted by many more hospitals throughout the UK so the Kingston Hospital exposure could be the tip of a very large iceberg.

World Health Organisation looks at Cuba

The Director General of the World Health Organisation recently visited Cuba meeting Fidel Castro and noting the extensive developments being carried out across the region. The emphasis on promoting healthy citizens means that a lot less expenditure is necessary to treat sickness.
Health care based on the Cuban model can also be seen in Venezuela and was recently visited by a group from Washington in the USA promoting health care before profit in a neighbourhood in the USA. This part of the world, unlike Obama in the US, does not have to battle with the multinational pharmaceutical giants or the health insurance companies that dog progress for universal health care in the US and European countries.

Water equality

That Israel can get away with murder has long been a fact as far as Palestinians are concerned. If Liebermann had his way we hear that Gaza would have “been nuked”. Already Israeli government members travel in fear of being arrested on war crimes.
Scarce water supplies are withheld from Palestinians so that Israeli settlers can water their gardens, fill their swimming pools while running water is not available to many people. Not that this is the only place on earth where water is used as a weapon. In a way it is the world in microcosm where there are winners and losers in a commodity essential for life and health.
The use of water by multi-nationals for their products is also a major issue particularly in countries like India where land is parched. The biggest of these, Coca-Cola, is also a leading figure on the “World Water Forum”! The water is laced with huge amounts of sugar quite unnecessarily and sold converting a natural resource to a huge health hazard in the process. Although CO2 emissions constantly grab headlines in sustainability issues, water is right up there with big business trying to put respectability back into their profit-driven enterprises.

Health or wealth

Interesting to note those countries with the most wealth are struggling when it comes to their nation’s health. It is not those with the most resources that have succeeded in providing health on the basis of equality. Of course an unhealthy nation is exceedingly costly as people fall sick. It not only can cost them but the aggregate cost to the economy is massive. Yet the free market economy priorities don’t heed this even though it is well understood.
President Obama’s attempted health reforms are showing the fault lines between interest groups battling for supremacy in health care for the nation. Drug and insurance companies hold sway not just in the USA but everywhere the free market rules.
In the UK it has been apparent for several years now that the involvement of private companies and the free market has accelerated under New Labour. Margaret Thatcher could hardly have dreamt of the success of the reforms under her leadership taken on lock, stock and barrel by the party supposed to have toppled her. It may have thrown her out but her policies didn’t go with her.
The reforms of the health service are characterised by complex, inefficient and very expensive management (unamanagable?) systems. The money has gone into bureaucracy rather than health care. Now the market is syphoning yet more money out as profit for those very interests threatening the U.S. reforms. One simple solution suggested was to look at Cuba. How had a country with such limited resources managed not only to fund its much admired health-care but to export doctors and nurses widely across the world? One lesson is that prevention is a high priority. If the nation is healthy then the cost lowers dramatically. Britain is unhealthy and unequal in spite of the original intentions of the once visionary NHS.

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Swine ‘flu. Advice or dictat?

The prospect of a ‘flu pandemic seems to induce hysteria. The Government panics for fear it is seen as unready for such an event and then people are worried, particularly parents since press stories of Avian, and now Swine ‘flu speak of their lethal potential.
When Avian ‘flu did eventually turn up in Norfolk the then Environmental Secretary, David Milliband, was more concerned with the commercial consequences blaming wild birds rather than Bernard Matthews’ infamous “bootiful” turkeys – or the method of intensive rearing where a virus can have a field day. Swine ‘flu has similarly been connected to Smithfield, a firm which rears pigs in unpleasant conditions in both the US and Mexico, the source of Swine ‘flu.
The downside of mass vaccinations, warned of by some professionals, has been played down and so Tamiflu has been stockpiled. Paracetemol they say is more appropriate and the widespread use of the anti-viral will hasten its ability to develop a resistance to this treatment.

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