The more one delves into the global influence of Pharma, the more staggering (and creepy) it gets. But ultimately, the facts still point towards banks and neocons as the drivers.
A recent examination in the US that focused on 23 of the biggest drug makers – and the two major trade associations PhRMA and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, known as BIO – underlined the array of connections between the lawmakers and the drug companies they regulate last year. Vast sums are involved, and the very clear targeting of decisionmakers makes brutally clear just how little this has got to do with “lobbying”, and how much is naked bribery.
As a result of this, Congress has provided billions of additional dollars to federal health care agencies aimed at helping fund drug company research. The decision from Senate Republicans to award BARDA, an agency largely tasked with funding drug companies’ Covid-19 efforts, an additional $20 billion, is typical: and that comes out at a whopping 14 times more money than it was allocated last year.
Buying legislators is cheap: for a sum total of 548 cheques totalling around $12.8m in 2020, US drugcos totted up over $120 billion in orders and awards – a nearly ten thousand fold return on a tiny “marketing” budget. Needless to say, Pfizer and Astrazeneca were in the vanguard of money-spraying.
In the UK, there is far less “donation” openness: dark money funding is legal under UK law, but campaigners and opposition parties have, with great justification, claimed that a review of British election laws is needed now, calling on the Conservatives in particular to reveal the names of all those who bankrolled the party’s 2019 victory. Don’t hold your breath: there’d be some embarrassments in there….especially when it comes to Big Pharma, and political instructions to NHS bureaucrats that, spookily, so often follow.
Sometimes, such influence comes out in the most obscure ways….and thus goes unnoticed. Recently here, I wrote a largely satirical piece about Edwina Currie and her quite astonishingly stupid advice that everyone should get vaccinated and not “be so selfish”. (Note the similar ‘briefing’ she received to Her Maj Liz2: peer-pressure propaganda is rarely subtle)
But people need to remember that, thirty years ago, Currie was a Junior Health Minister who loudly proclaimed the widespread existence of salmonella in eggs. The potential for veterinary Pharma innoculation of chickens as a result was enormous.
Currie also campaigned – while UK Public Health Minister – to get so-called ‘SNUs’ banned in Europe, despite the fact their development reduced the risk of cancer from tobacco usage by nearly 90%. Big Pharma campaigned for the same thing, because SNUs competed with their nicotine gum and patch solutions to nicotine addiction.