The Protocol, Pills and Public Ownership

The threat being levelled by big pharmaceutical companies to cease supplying a range of essential medicines to Northern Ireland has to rank as one of the lowest forms of immoral blackmail and will impact directly on the ill, the vulnerable and the long-term sick”, says Nicola Campbell, Workers Party spokesperson in Newry & Armagh.

“It is outrageous that the health and well-being of some of the most medically vulnerable in society, can be held to ransom in the pursuit of grossly inflated profits”, she said

Nicola Campbell

Delivering up to 1,000 types of prescription medicines has been declared “commercially unviable” when the current exemption from the EU’s Northern Ireland Protocol expires in January.

This raises two major issues: the politics behind the Protocol and the power of the big pharmaceutical companies.

The border in the Irish Sea does not need to be there. The EU’s insistence that it remains is punishment for having had the audacity to leave and is being used to exert political pressure by disrupting trade, frustrating everyday cooperation and now by interrupting essential medical supplies.

It is impossible to ignore the manner in which the EU has and continues to conduct its negotiations. It is a bully and continues to intimidate. Its unilateral block on Covid 19 vaccines coming into Northern Ireland earlier this year is but one example.

Strange then that there is not common cause amongst the major parties in the Assembly. Sinn Fein, in particular, seem more comfortable jeopardising the health of children, the vulnerable and the long-term ill than they are in challenging, or even upsetting, the EU they so admire.

“The big pharmaceutical companies exist to make profits. They do not primarily function for the wellbeing of the world. Their refusal to make life saving drugs available to Third World countries typifies bother their morals and their motives”, said Nicola.

It is also past time that the research, development, manufacture and distribution of medicines was brought into public ownership. Major corporations making in excess of a 40% profit on life saving and life sustaining drugs is, at best, immoral.

“Almost £4 billion of public money every year goes to fund drug research by private companies. The NHS spends in excess of £20 billion a year to purchase those medicines for patients. We are paying twice over and on terms dictated by multinational drug companies”, Nicola added

The Protocol obstacles may yet prove easier to overcome than the financial stranglehold that these companies have on our health service and on our lives.

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