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Firms' NHS bonanza

DRUG COMPANIES are ripping the NHS off for millions every year.

Issue No. 1877

The Serious Fraud Office has launched a major investigation into what some drug companies charge the NHS for their products.

The investigation is focusing on whether the companies colluded to fix the price of some antibiotics and warfarin, a blood thinning agent.

The alleged cartel could have cost the NHS £400 million over the last four years. The cost of some drugs rose sixfold between 1996 and 2000. Investigators staged dawn raids on the homes and offices of senior executives.

The firms involved in the alleged cartel are Norton Healthcare, Regent-GM Laboratories and the Goldshield Group. Three more are likely to be investigated soon.

THE NHS is paying up to 40 percent more to buy operations from the private sector, the Department of Health has admitted.

The extra costs are part of New Labour's drive to reduce waiting lists.

For some of the most routine treatment in 2001-2 the NHS paid private firms £922 for a cataract operation. The average NHS cost is £632. Hip replacements cost 33 percent more, and knee replacements cost an extra 44 percent.

Health secretary John Reid said that overseas providers in independent health centres will also be paid 'above the NHS tariff' for the first five years.

Post not in crisis

BULLYING ROYAL Mail bosses are always claiming they face a dire financial emergency and threatening workers that the company is on the brink of disaster.

New figures revealed that they are making loads of money and expect to make loads more.

Allan Leighton, company chairman, has announced that Royal Mail made an operating profit of £50 million last year.

Royal Mail bosses want to play down their successes, in order to keep the threat of financial failure over the heads of their workers and scare them out of demanding a pay rise.

Money go round

FOR A breathtaking example of the madness of capitalism look no further than the boss of the department store BHS.

Philip Green added to BHS's profits by getting a £250 million unsecured bank loan.

This cash was passed on to shareholders in dividends. Green is BHS's largest shareholder with 94 percent of the shares. So he pockets £210 million.

BHS's pre-tax profits were down £49 million on last year's figures, to £123 million.

Green is expecting another gift in his Christmas stocking-a Gulfstream G550 jet from his wife. It's believed to have cost £18 million. The couple have also ordered a new luxurious yacht.

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Sat 15 Nov 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1877
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