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Tell Key to keep Pharmac

Written By: - Date published: 7:25 am, June 2nd, 2011 - 35 comments
Categories: capitalism, john key, leadership, overseas investment, us politics - Tags: , ,

Like the ACC, Pharmac is a Kiwi institution that delivers benefits to everyone at a lower cost than other countries. National has got ACC on the butcher’s block. We must make sure that Pharmac doesn’t follow.

The problem is that the government is trying to negotiate a free trade agreement with America (the TPP). Pharmac pisses of the American drug companies, so (via their puppet politicians) they’re applying pressure to the government to ditch Pharmac as the price of the deal. We’d have to be mad to agree. Here’s Gareth Morgan’s take:

Pharmac bashers need a dose of reality

Despite being the chief advocate for free trade, the United States has a reputation for negotiating trade deals that turn out to have more fish hooks in them than a Japanese long-liner. Could the Trans Pacific Partnership deal be shaping up to be another example?

Behind the scenes, drug companies are spreading misinformation to undermine our state monopoly drug purchaser Pharmac. …

Pharmac’s job is to get the best value for the budget it manages, and it does this job very well. It does this by buying the medicines that add the most years of healthy life for the money spent, and striking the best deal with the pharmaceutical giants. …

But of course the drug oligopoly wishes it could control our drug budget, and will no doubt be seeking the backing of US government negotiators.

Tough. Leave Pharmac alone, America, just buy our butter and wool and we’ll buy your Harley-Davidsons. Or get lost and we’ll deal with China instead.

This anonymous Herald editorial gets it: “Pharmac more important than US deal”. The Labour Party get it. Phil Goff says we won’t weaken Pharmac for the TPP — this is “an absolute bottom line”. But do the Nats get it? Key is dithering:

Prime Minister John Key says the New Zealand Government would take “a fair bit of convincing” that Pharmac wasn’t the best model to keep under the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement under negotiation.

He made his comment after 28 United States senators wrote to President Barack Obama expressing concerns about intellectual property aspects of the TPP, alluding to without naming Pharmac.

“A fair bit of convincing”? Not good enough. Pharmac is a proven asset to our country. Key needs to grow a pair and tell America it is not negotiable. And if that sinks the TPP, so much the better. The TPP is a poisoned chalice that requires us to surrender far too much of our soverignty. If we can get an acceptable free trade agreement with America, well and good. But the TPP isn’t it.

35 comments on “Tell Key to keep Pharmac”

  1. Jim Nald 1

    Is there a petition (online or hard copy) that folks can sign up to?

  2. M 2

    First our drugs, next our socialised health care and if that’s the case we can look forward to twelve year-olds dying from abscessed teeth like they do in America.

  3. JS 3

    I’ve heard that there is a clause in the TPP that says you can’t go back on a decision made. So once gone or privatised there is no chance to re-nationalise.

    • Jim Nald 3.1

      Oh, so no chance of Kiwi Treaty settlements in a hundred years from now?

      How come this new wave of “partnership” bullshit agreement is starting to look like Colonisation 2.0 ?

      And what might the new glass beads and blankets look like this time round to entice us?

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Because it is Colonisation 2.0. Although, considering how much of our wealth already flows offshore from previous FTA and neo-liberal policies, that may be more like 3.0 or 4.0.

  4. PeteG 4

    I don’t think it should be non-negotiable, minor changes that don’t affect the strengths of Pharmac wouldn’t matter – and an agreeement that improved our drug access/pricing would be good (albeit unlikely).

    But I agree that we should make it clear we don’t want Pharmac adversely affected by any trade agreement, and best to make it clear now.

    • Blighty 4.1

      what minor changes that will satisfy US Big Pharma but not hurt Pharmac are you suggesting?

      This sounds like you’re going for the fallacy of the middle ground because you instinctively don’t like government agencies, even hugely successful ones like Pharmac.

      • PeteG 4.1.1

        Wrong – I instinctively like Pharmac. I think it should be retained as it is.

        I just don’t think it’s wise to absolutely rule out any negotiation. It’s possible, and I’d say preferable, to go in to negotiations with no change to Pharmac as a bottom line without openly revealing that.

        • Draco T Bastard

          If the negotiation doesn’t bring any benefit, which the TPPA won’t, then it’s wise to put forward that which we won’t move upon.

      • Jim Nald 4.1.2

        The RWNJs’ economic vandalism and policy terrorism agenda is simple: smash or sell

      • Lanthanide 4.1.3

        Well I agree with PeteG in principal. I think it’s possible that there could be some small tweaks around the edges for Pharmac that won’t damage it unduly, and we shouldn’t chuck out the whole deal if small concessions can be made.
        But I take your point that it seems unlikely there would be much room to move in that arena – most changes acceptable to the US companies would be bad for us.

  5. prism 5

    The health allocation is one of the biggest costs to the government budget. There is an uneasy alliance between the sick person and the drug company with mutual need and ambivalent attitudes.
    They need to make a profit and pay for their research, that no doubt is often unsuccessful. We need to be not impoverished after buying their product.

    The drug companies are so big that they can buy politicians, flatter them, treat them, offer inducements, holidays, etc. I remember a story about the top judiciary of one or more USA states having a paid golfing weekend by some company, which might not have been a drug company. It would seem dangerous from the point of affecting their objectivity overall but worse because the company sponsor was in court before one or more of the judges at the time.

    So we need to watch that our ongoing NZ government system doesn’t get screwed for ever because of decisions made in a short period of governance by pleasure seekers and austere followers of the distorted sect of neo liberalism.

  6. stever 6

    It’s not just the politicians that get the treatment—GPs and specialists too get inducements to look kindly on drugs, and while they have little choice here in NZ than to go with Pharmac (for many people), the pressure must be worth applying or the companies would not indulge in it.

  7. William Joyce 7

    I wondered about the late November date to the election until I heard that the next milestone in the TPP (I think) is a preliminary signing in November. Did Johnny boy want to be around to do this on behalf of his handlers or am I seeing a conspiracy where one doesn’t exist?
    Someone better informed than me could answer this?

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      There are a whole myriad of reasons for announcing the election so early in the year. TPP could certainly be one of them, but I think the biggest two factors are the rubber wool cup and Key wanting to appear as principled and above petty brinkmanship.
      Possibly the Sept 4th earthquake also played into it – by November there should have been some good momentum going (was apparently going to crack into gear in late Feb-March anyway). Of course the announcement was made before the Feb 22nd quake, and it is in some ways remarkable that he didn’t pull the election in to late April or early May, with the excuse that the budget would be all about a response to Chch and therefore required a fresh mandate.

  8. ianmac 8

    Would Mr Key allow a short term gain in exchange for a long term loss? Surely not.
    But wait. Sell electricity companies to get a short term gain but a long term loss. Umm yes.
    There’s therefore more. Trade off Pharmac’s independence for short term US approval but long term loss for the patients of NZ.
    Would Key do that? He made a non-scientific Herceptin decision by over-ruling Pharmac for political gain. So yes.
    Would he do it again?

    • PeteG 8.1

      What if a trade agreement was reached that would end up costing Pharmac $500m more a year, but would virtually guarantee additional trade and business to the country that would generate an additional $1b in taxes? Including extra jobs.

      I don’t think “going for the middle ground” is anything like “considering all options and possibilities”.

      • prism 8.1.1

        Oh PeteG you little cheer germ. What if? dreams are so lovely and bright. The USA doesn’t even care about its own people and businesses, but they do have the ability to lobby and get protection from overseas competition.

        Australia has been putting up barriers to our apples with fascinating side trips into paranoid stories such as that a NZ scientist himself ‘planted’ some fireblight-contaminated plant which he had found in a park he was strolling in. The USA can do much better than that.

        Some years ago we were happily exporting beef or lamb to them under a ‘gentlemens’ quota which also applied to Oz. But they had a drought and got rid of the resultant excess of meat by exceeding the quota. The USA farmers were indignant and a swingeing tax was put on not only Australia but also NZ and we had been complying up to that point. Only then did we up our exports to take advantage of the window before the new tariff which remained for some time.

        The USA will give us little of worth and take much of what our little country has achieved for our successful advantage. We will be the losers. The Aussies didn’t get much out of their free trade agreement with the USA. Our pollies are just playing ‘me too, me too’.

        • PeteG

          I’m not cheerful about the chances of the US going subsidy free and trading freely. No harm in trying as part of a wider deal but there are easier, more fair trading partners.

          I was only positing the complexities of making absolute non negotiable stands. Everything ends up being a compromise with trade offs – but I’m sure that Kiwis as a whole would be very annoyed if Pharmac is compromised.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Last time I looked, the Australian FTA with the US was costing them $700m with no benefits.

      • William Joyce 8.1.2

        Bird in the hand, PeteG. If you think that a back door access will be opened for our goods then you underestimate the farming lobby of the US and the level of appeasement that congress members will accept in order to get re-elected.
        There are sooooo many subsidies, federal programmes, and protectionist practices that have been granted to farmers from pork-barrel politics.
        That back door access will be slammed shut despite the TPP. They will find another way to continue their protected, subsidised farming by leaning on the local pollies.
        To surrender what we already have (Pharmac) for the promise of free trade from the TPP is stupid and irresponsible.
        And to think that we should amounts to brown-nosing the US bully-boy corporates!

        • Lanthanide

          I’ve heard that many farmers in rural US knew that the corn ethanol programme was a huge scam, but they voted for Bush because he put money (tens of thousands/year) into their back pockets because of it.
          The US is the only country in the world that uses High Fructose Corn Syrup as a general sweetener for food products, to the point that Coca Cola made with cane sugar is called “Mexican coke” and is actually imported from Mexico. This is only feasible because of the ridiculous subsidies given to corn farmers and tariffs applied to imported sugar to protect the farmers. It is believed that the use of HFCS is a factor underlying much of American obesity.

          • William Joyce

            I think that it was Nixon that instituted subsidies on corn and that made corn syrup so cheap. So cheap that it, as you say, is over used as a sweetener.
            Also so cheap that it is a main food in their factory, in door, disease breeding, overcrowded cattle barns. Cheaper than raising beef on grass!
            Grass farmers are selling up to factory corporates because they can not raise grass-fed beef cheaper than corn-fed.
            The problem is that cattle can’t digest corn properly. You have to stick a hose down their throats to get the accumulated gas out else they die.
            Then of course comes the ethanol requirements for fuel and the subsidies, that you mention, for farmers to grow more corn.
            With over US$20 billion already in US “income stability” subsidies for farmers, with the TPP, all I see is another “income stability” subsidy going to US farmers that will make US dairy and meat cheaper than the imported, grass-fed, relatively humanely raised NZ beef and dairy.
            So even if we get our product in they will have to promote an  edge (ie. taste, animal welfare, etc) other than price.

            • prism

              W Joyce that is interesting stuff. Sounds as if you know your subject. How often would the gas release treatment have to be given to the USA cows? Here farmers have to watch cows that eat too much new grass growth. That’s where the bloat arises isn’t it.? Then I’ve heard of kids chasing the cow around the paddock to release the gas or a knife being put into the stomach somewhere to release it or else the cow can swell, is it with fermentation, and die.

              • lprent

                I have done the latter

              • William Joyce

                Prism, I’m just a case of urban boy listening to a US NPR doco on the wireless/internet.
                Not sure how often grass fed cows burp but they are prone to bloat if they eat certain food in certain seasons.
                The inability to process corn or soy properly makes them more prone to bloat so I guess the methane producing bacteria produce more gas. It could also be made worse by the factory barns where they can not “walk it off”.

  9. johnm 9

    I can’t understand why anyone would want to have a free trade agreement with the U$: A third World (Heading rapidly that way) Banana Republic of incredible wealth disparities that people only acknowledge because they have the biggest arsenal of bombs and bullets the World will ever know.

    Oh I forgot! Shonkey has a house there: he’s almost an American citizen!

    • johnm 9.1

      He also worked for Merrill Lynch, a crooked wall street money manipulator outfit where he made a financial killing sitting at a computer monitor!

  10. johnm 10

    Yes Shonkey has worked and continues to work for The Wall Street asset stripper club( NZ affiliated branch!). NZers in love with their tax cut sweeties still support him! Sick!

    “Most Americans it is clear are as powerless as the rest of the world to detain this Washington chainsaw massacre that is as predictable as a Peckinpah orgy unfolding before those of us that have bothered to read the Mein Kampf script. It is seen and understood for what it is but unfortunately power is out of our hands; we cannot influence the impending crash under the present circumstances where all power is concentrated in the few. The whited sepulchre of a Congress that meekly rubber stamps the corpocracy’s global death grip, only adds insult to injury by upholding the illusion of a functioning democracy for anyone that still might give a damn about right and wrong.
    The elite of this crumbling, has been “republic” are evil and debauched to the core while Joe and Smo Crackpipe are oblivious to the global stench of dead bodies wafting across a planet that utterly despises everything that America stands for. The good thing about the drug addled, suited thugs and banksters running riot in the sewer that is Washington and Wall St is that the empire is decomposing just as quickly at home as on the rim of its fetid outer colonies. Today where history moves with the speed of light the NSA CIA geeks with their gadgets and remote controlled Predators and Reapers just don’t seem to grasp the reality down here on the ground : that the gangrene is beyond stopping. When a government has so much fear of its own citizens that dancing becomes a threat and must be suppressed at all costs then that is indeed a despotic society that is not far from opening up the much ballyhooed Fema Concentration Camps. ”

    Would you do a deal with this to get rid of PHARMAC?

  11. thatguynz 11

    Does anybody honestly think that there will be ANY benefit to NZ signing on to the TPPA? I can see tremendous benefit to US corporations but for the NZ populace, not 1. In fact I would be so bold as to suggest that signing this would be every bit as bad/silly/naive as the asset sales that are being proposed. That being said, it completely aligns with the NACT ideology so I would expect nothing else but for them to advocate this as a good idea. The fact that Labour haven’t come out and categorically stated that they would remove NZ from these “negotiations” concerns me…

    • Draco T Bastard 11.1

      Actually, Labour have come out and said that they support the negotiations but have said that they don’t support dumping Pharmac for them.

    • ianmac 11.2

      The benefit for a TPPA is largely a political “coup” for John Key’s election prospects. Politically pragmatic? Or straight out unscrupulous?

  12. johnm 12

    Another example of Shonkey’s Wall Street asset strippers club in action: not ACC, Pharmac or SOEs but old people being ripped of by a Wall Street suited criminal in the UK:

    Sharks who made a killing out of ‘care’: How City predators destroyed firm caring for 31,000 old people
    Care-home bailout could cost £600m
    Second biggest care company also in trouble
    Shark: Stephen Schwarzman’s U.S. private equity firm Blackstone bought out Southern Cross Healthcare in 2004 before selling them three years later
    The U.S. private equity firm Blackstone, led by Stephen Schwarzman, bought Southern Cross in 2004 for £162million and sold it three years later. It is believed to have quadrupled its investment.
    Old People were ripped off for a return of pounds 648 million. Great American Business!

    Refer link:

  13. johnm 13

    This Wall Street Crim Schwarzman had a great 60th birthday attended by amongst others the War Criminal Colin Powell who last year was giving tips to Paula Bennett on “corporate responsibility” Like the case in point here where 30,000 old folks get ripped off for profit!

    “He was certainly the king of conspicuous consumption. While other private equity moguls tend to be shy of publicity, Schwarzman – a graduate of Yale University, where he was a member of its exclusive Skull and Bones Society – liked to advertise his self-indulgence at every opportunity.

    In 2007, he paid Rod Stewart a reported $1million to perform at his extravagant 60th birthday party at which Patti LaBelle led the Abyssinian Baptist Choir singing He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands in his honour. Guests included Colin Powell and the New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.”

    Refer link above

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