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Labour and the Keytruda campaign

Written By: - Date published: 11:50 am, March 2nd, 2016 - 66 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, making shit up, Media, spin, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: ,

Andrew Little backing the dream-3

The usual suspects are trying to manufacture a scandal over Andrew Little having dinner with some Medical Industry big wigs in September last year and because Labour more recently has supported the drug Keytruder being funded by Pharmac.

The “scandal” to use that word in its most loosest sense was broken by Stacey Kirk in the Dominion Post.  It may have well been written by Jonathan Coleman’s media advisors, such is the level of spin involved.

The headline to the story is “Andrew Little dines with drug company executives months before adopting Keytruda stance” which is correct at least in a temporal sense. The dinner occurred 6 months ago well before Little expressing interest in Keytruda as an issue.  As far as I can ascertain the issue only arose in December 2015 when Pharmac decided not to fund Keytruda and Labour then started to formulate a position.

But this did not stop Kirk drawing what was an exceedingly unlikely conspiracy theory.  From the article:

Drug company lobbyists were hosted at a special dinner by Labour leader Andrew Little, months before Labour announced its stance to override Pharmac and fund melanoma drug Keytruda.

Labour confirmed the dinner took place, understood to have been in Labour’s parliamentary offices, in September.

Organised by Pharma lobbying group Medicines NZ, the dinner also included representatives from Keytruda makers Merck Sharp and Dohme, Pfizer, Roche, Healthcare Logistics and Sanofi.

Little said he recalled a dinner, but was unsure of the timing.

“I’ve certainly met with health insurers, I’m not quite sure whether drug companies were represented there.”

His office clarified Little hosted both groups separately, late last year.

But Little said neither meeting had any influence on Labour’s current position, and there had “absolutely not” been any discussions around political donations from the drug companies.

“And I don’t get caught up in discussions about that, but I’m certainly not aware of any suggestions, hints at, offers of, contributions. It’s not the basis of which we would arrive at the position we’ve arrived at.”

The line of questioning was clearly of the “have you stopped beating your wife” variety.  And I understand the topic of conversation at the dinner was the potential effects of TPP on Pharmac.  Labour’s decision to oppose the TPP no doubt was upsetting to many of the attendees of the dinner.

Kirk also said this:

It’s understood there is deep disquiet within Labour, over the issue. It’s believed some MPs and wider party members are privately unhappy with the moves to interfere with Pharmac’s purchasing model.

She should have completed the first sentence and said that it was understood from Jonathan Coleman’s office that there is deep disquiet within the labour party.  No one has mentioned it to me as an issue and those I have communicated with are surprised and annoyed at the insinuation.  One day the media will stop running National smear lines against the Labour Party and start reporting on facts.  It is a shame we are not there yet.  Then to reinforce the effect Coleman gets to comment on how Labour is divided.

On social media the normal suspects on the right and those on the left who believe that Labour can do no good, no matter what, joined in.

If the media was really interested in the general issue of political influence it should ask how many times has John Key had dinner with industry representatives and then get him to deny that a change of policy is because of that dinner and that National has not received donations from that industry group.

Of course Little could refuse to meet with industry representatives.  Yes that is as ridiculous as it sounds.

There is an argument that Pharmac should be allowed to make decisions of its own volition without political interference.  In a perfect world perhaps.  But National in 2008 broke the mould with its decision to direct the funding of Hercepton.  So Labour should be  forced to fight political battles with a hostile media and one hand tied behind its back?

And besides the drug is approved for use in Australia and in the United Kingdom. And there are recent reports that National has squeezed funding to Pharmac to the tune of $40 million a year to bolster the health spend in other areas. This would be more than enough to fund use of the drug for a significant number of cancer sufferers.

National clearly is in a difficult situation with Keytruda.  What better way to minimise the damage than to get the media to run conspiracy theories about the Labour Party.

66 comments on “Labour and the Keytruda campaign ”

  1. Anne 1

    Labour has to do something. This constant together with the irrational and insane hostile media attitude towards Labour has to be confronted – NOW. No more pussy footing around plaintively denying this is not true etc.

    Get on the front foot and roar like a lion Labour. If Winston Peters can do it so can you.

    For starters, how about a few local Wellingtonians (or mickysavage) fire off emails to the author of the article pointing out that… just because Jonathan Coleman’s office says there is disquiet in Labour doesn’t make it true.

    • Anne 1.1

      oops… after constant – should be ‘misrepresentation’. In a hurry.

    • Eyre 1.2

      No one is mentioning the elephant in the room. Who leaked this?

      • Anne 1.2.1

        I would say this came from the National Party – Jonathan Coleman’s office? I’m picking some right-wing prick (that choice of word is sure to upset some morally moribund rwnj) in the medical industry heard about the dinner in “the Office of the Leader of the Opposition” and told Coleman’s office. I’ve already been wrong once today so don’t take my word for it, but I very much doubt it was a Labour caucus leak. The L.C. is much more disciplined under Little’s jurisdiction.

        • Eyre 1.2.1.1

          Was Jonathan coleman there?. That would be a strange invitation. Bet he couldn’t believe his luck. I think you will find it came from with in labour. Who else knew. Why didn’t little come out and say, they were discussing tppa. Would say they weren’t.

          • mickysavage 1.2.1.1.1

            Were you there? I guess not. But you decided to pronounce as if you were. Why is that?

            • Eyre 1.2.1.1.1.1

              tell me who leaked it. Cunliffe?, Roberson?. Someone inside labour leaked it, knowing it wouldn’t make little look good

              • mickysavage

                The dinner was that secret it was held at Parliament … no leaking required.

            • Eyre 1.2.1.1.1.2

              Why was there 4 questions in the house from labour about pharmac on tuesday. One from little about keytruda. And none on Wednesday.

  2. Karen 2

    I don’t see anything wrong per se in Labour meeting with Medicine Net or any other industry groups. I do disagree with the government interfering with the Pharmac model because of a media campaign to get a particular drug paid for, however. I don’t care that National did it – they were also wrong.

    What Labour should be saying is that the health budget is inadequate overall, plus more money needs to be given to Pharmac directly so more drugs can be made available.

    James Dann has written a good piece about this:

    http://thespinoff.co.nz/02-03-2016/keytruda-pharmac-and-the-zero-sum-game/

    • McFlock 2.1

      I agree entirely

    • mickysavage 2.2

      I accept the interference argument is potent but the trouble is that National does it time and time again. Roads of National significance and Northland bridges are two examples. For very good reasons the NLTP system was set up to depoliticise decisions and to allow for funding decisions to be made on the merits but this has been turned on its head by this Government.

      • McFlock 2.2.1

        National are shit. We know that.

        But the electioneering lolly scramble divides society, alienates people against each other. So people drop out of the system.

        Copying National means Labour scrabbles for the remaining pieces of a rapidly shrinking and mouldering pie.

        Option B is to maybe be in a position to catch some of the perfectly good crumbs dropping off the pie. They’ll mount up, and they’re better than what will end up remaining on the plate.

    • Wainwright 2.3

      Commented in the wrong place before. He didn’t meet them, he wined and dined them. Big difference.

  3. McFlock 3

    Pharmaceutical funding is one of those things that, no matter what choice you make, people will suffer and die.

    These decisions need to be coldly calculated, otherwise “deserving” or “cute” patients (or those with the loudest publicists) get treatment ahead of their priority, increasing overall suffering and death.

    Increase pharmac’s budget by all means, but “National did it too” is just as degenerate an argument as “Labour did it too”.

    If behaving in a rational and principled manner is campaigning with ” one hand tied behind its back”, then so be it. Political parties should not leverage suffering into votes when no just government would alleviate the suffering being leveraged. Because that’s the sad situation at hand: increase overall suffering to get a photo-op with grateful queue-jumpers.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    The TPP is going to hamstring pharmac.

    Labour is going to keep the TPP.

    Labour has just launched a social media campaign based on inadequate treatment for skin cancer sufferers.

    Big Pharma now states that government funding problems means dozens of new drugs are unavailable to Kiwis.

    Little meets with Big Pharma to socialise and talk business, Big Pharma the industry which wrote entire sections of the TPP.

    Labour supporters: nothing to see here, these things are not interconnected, move along.

    • McFlock 4.1

      yes dear.

    • Sabine 4.2

      I get it, what we need is the NZ answer to Donald Trump.

      Care to run CV?

      • Tim 4.2.1

        He fits the part doesn’t he? Gradually sounding crazier day by day..

        • adam 4.2.1.1

          Never critique the labour party, – they just call you crazy!

          Wow Tim, what a Tory scumbag you turned out to be.

          • McFlock 4.2.1.1.1

            Suggests name calling is tool to discredit valid opponents.
            Name-calls individual who you just implied uses said tool.

            lol

          • Colonial Viper 4.2.1.1.2

            Notice adam how the left think that uber clever wit decisively shuts down points of view that it doesn’t want to hear?

            It’s that kind of intellectual arrogance that electorates all around the world are growing weary of.

            Plenty of lefties on The Standard have been name calling and abusing Trump over the last few days. No one has called for that to stop.

            Oh yeah, moral hypocrisy is another thing that people notice about the political left.

            • McFlock 4.2.1.1.2.1

              who called for name calling to stop?

              I just found the immediately adjacent hypocrisy funny. dissonance much?

    • Johan 4.3

      Does Pharmac spend money purchasing the “new drugs” or does it wait ’till the generic brand comes out?

      • Colonial Viper 4.3.1

        AFAIK they use a complex cost/benefit analysis to figure out whether or not a new drug makes it.

  5. Ad 5

    The pharmaceutical industry is not a democracy, so I fully support Little seeing them. I hope he ordered the best wine on the menu.

    Coleman one the one hand admitted he and Key shouldn’t have folded on the breast cancer drug, but on the other hand bleated and pleaded to the camera like a lamb when finally shamed into meeting the petition-organisers. Pharmac was set up to avoid life-and-death medications done on political whim like this.

    Coleman is just being a politician.

    • Sabine 5.1

      but he is not Labour, and that makes it all good.

      Its only wrong or questionable if Labour does it. See how easy that is.

      Nevermind that there are people in NZ that will die before their time because we have an actual government not doing its job on principle cause small government, free enterprise and market and no regulations n shit.
      But we are not allowed to talk about that. That would be disrespectful or something.

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        Its only wrong or questionable if Labour does it. See how easy that is.

        Not quite.

        It’s wrong or questionable.

        If its a National MP they get a pass. If its a Labour MP they don’t.

        Now, that’s clearly not a level playing field but it doesn’t stop it being wrong or questionable in either case.

        Nevermind that there are people in NZ that will die before their time because we have an actual government not doing its job on principle cause small government, free enterprise and market and no regulations n shit.

        Labour was underfunding hospitals in the 2000s leading to excess deaths. This was reported in various news media.

        Just saying.

        Of course, the NATs are somewhat worse in multiple ways.

    • Wainwright 5.2

      You hope he ordered the best wine on the menu? Generous of you, coz if you’re a Labour member you paid for it. This wasn’t the Skycity corporate box. It was fancypants dinner in his office after hours, with a bunch of corporate scum who were never going to help Labour out anyway and probably leaked the story to the tories next day.

      • Colonial Viper 5.2.1

        You hope he ordered the best wine on the menu? Generous of you, coz if you’re a Labour member you paid for it

        This sounds about right.

        Or the tax payer paid for it.

      • Ad 5.2.2

        Pharma lobbyists have excellent expense accounts

        • Wainwright 5.2.2.1

          Read the article, mate. The dinner took place in Labour’s parliamentary offices. Little wasn’t the guest, he was the host. He paid – you paid. ANd for what? Another bad headline.

          • mickysavage 5.2.2.1.1

            I don’t get it. If this was a secret dinner held at a private location then the conspiracy theories would have slightly more validity. But it was held in Parliament. Hundreds of people would have known what was going on.

            And are you saying that Little should never meet with any industry representative? Honest the suggestion is bizarre. Labour needs to reach out to all sorts of groups. It can’t go into a shell and meet with supporters only.

            • Herb 5.2.2.1.1.1

              ” Hundreds of people would have known what was going on.” you say ,but persist in blaming Johnathon Coleman.
              Even Vernon Small knows it was your own team

            • Wainwright 5.2.2.1.1.2

              Mate, from what I hear even senior Labour Party types didn’t know it was happening. But all the defenders keep saying “meet” like it was a business briefing. Just admit it sounds shady and hold our man to a higher standard.

  6. But National in 2008 broke the mould with its decision to direct the funding of Hercepton.

    They did indeed. That’s because they’re shit corporate weasels unfit to be put in charge of a picnic, let alone a country. Is Labour now considering that an aspirational goal?

  7. alwyn 7

    Did Little really say ” I’m not quite sure whether drug companies were represented there’.
    He must be in a bad way, mustn’t he? Just a few months ago and he only vaguely seems to remember the dinner and he can’t remember who was present.
    Early onset dementia by the sound of it. Such a shame for his family.

  8. Michael 8

    That’s right – Labour politicians never, ever sell out in return for a bit of corporate koha, as even a cursory glance at political history reveals. Any suggestion that Little and co would let themselves be bought by Big Pharma is absolutely scandalous and must be firmly eschewed. I’m off to watch “The COnstant Gardener” again.

  9. Keith 9

    National will fund Keytruda and it will be fronted by John Key to try and resurrect his flagging popularity.

    BUT the truly worrying thing is it will come at an awful cost. Expect a variety of smaller cuts to the health budget or other public service budgets that will cover the cost but with interest! This is National and as a government living off debt and tax cuts they are short of money and long on illusions!

    And I expect the likes of Little to be speaking with drug companies, why the hell not, its a major cost to NZ and a major savings if done right. I mean its not as if they are lepers like SkyCity!

  10. Tautoko Mangō Mata 10

    IT is time the finger is pointed at Big Pharma for being greedy. It annoys me greatly that Pharmac will have to justify their choices under TPP providing opportunities for litigation but the Big Pharma corporations don’t have to justify their profits or be accountable for the deaths caused by the unaffordability of some of the drugs. Sure, research is expensive but Big Pharma spend more money on advertising than research. Why can’t they spend less on advertising, give fewer freebies to doctors and cut their prices?

    • Michael 10.1

      “IT is time the finger is pointed at Big Pharma for being greedy.” – It won’t be a Labour Party finger that’s for sure: they’re all jammed in the feeding trough.

  11. mac1 11

    And in tonight’s paper, a piece from Tracy Watkins on using cancer sufferers as a political football.

    She says- “Nobody’s hands are clean in the Keytruda row.” She criticises Labour for coat tailing the plight of cancer patients to attack the government, the drug companies for attempting to leverage up the price to Pharmac , and National for doing the same over Herceptin but claiming the high moral ground.

    I simply ask Tracy Watkins, what is the role of the Opposition?

    Is it not pointing out the failings of Government? On our behalf? In a democracy?

    ‘Cos that is its traditional role, alongside the fourth estate, and we are not seeing enough of that happening from the media.

    Pharmac has underspent its budget by $30 million. No mention of that in Watkins article.

    I am glad that Labour is hammering on the government’s gates.

    ‘Cos it’s nor bein

    • miravox 11.1

      “Pharmac has underspent its budget by $30 million”

      Which brings me back to wanting some information about how pharmac interprets its own funding criteria in relation to approving drugs and what the new criteria will produce.

      Medicines New Zealand on Pharmac funding

      Also, was there a reason other than strict interpretation of criteria for underspending – a political directive maybe?

  12. Magisterium 12

    Sure, this isn’t as egregious as National’s Sky City deal, or sending our troops to Iraq so we can stay ‘part of the club’. But Key, Joyce et al have reasons for the questionable stuff they do. They have agendas. It’s deliberate; calculated. They have reasons! Labour just does random bewilderingly stupid shit for no comprehensible reason. All the time. People write columns about how Labour should ‘move to the center’, or the left or whatever, but addressing the bewildering stupidity issue should be their primary goal.

    Dim-post, Same As It Ever Was
    https://dimpost.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/same-as-it-ever-was/

    • mickysavage 12.1

      I like Danyl’s writing but he is a green. He is never going to praise Labour.

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.1

        Are Danyl’s criticisms of Labour and the Labour leadership not valid then?

        The performance we have seen to date suggests that some of the criticisms might be spot on.

  13. upnorth 13

    He dine with executives – end of subject

    Story ends

  14. Colonial Viper 14

    Question: what contact has Little and Labour had with Big Pharma execs since the well publicised dinner.

    • Flatulence 14.1

      More than that. Has any donation to Labour occurred since that meeting, from Big Pharma?

      Like any race, if you are behind you have to run faster. In politics I assume if you are behind, you have to be either cleaner, or more devious.

  15. Ben 15

    “I’ve certainly met with health insurers, I’m not quite sure whether drug companies were represented there.”

    But Little said neither meeting had any influence on Labour’s current position, and there had “absolutely not” been any discussions around political donations from the drug companies.

    So although he can’t remember if he actually met with the drug companies, he can categorically state what wasn’t discussed at the meeting(s) that he can’t remember. Is he taking a leaf out of JK’s book? Not sure that Little can pull that off. If this this was a National minister or MP the Left (and the media) would be unhinged with indignation. Instead we get the “move on, nothing to see here” line.

  16. tinfoilhat 16

    The stench of hypocrisy from both National and Labour and their respective supporters on the issues surrounding PHARMAC is quite pungent.

  17. Jester 17

    Im unsure why Mickey states that National broke the mould in regards to convention of non political interference into Pharmac funding.

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