Socialist Worker

A patently obvious way to make profit

Issue No. 1875

A DRUGS firm is raking in the cash by pressuring doctors. Multinational Astra Zeneca is persuading GPs to prescribe an expensive ulcer drug almost identical to cheaper options on the market.

The company grabbed annual revenues of $6 billion from its ulcer drug Prilosec during the 1990s. It was the top- selling drug in the world. But its patent-which gave the company exclusive rights over Prilosec production-was to run out in 2001.

Before this happened Astra Zeneca 'reinvented' the drug, patented it and bombarded doctors with advertising. Astra Zeneca wanted to get people on its older (soon to be non-patented) drug to start using its 'new' drug.

This had to be done before any other company could start producing their own cheaper versions of Prilosec. Astra Zeneca claimed that Nexium was 'better' than the older drug. It was the most heavily advertised drug in the US last year. But the 'new' drug is practically identical to Prilosec.

Tom Scully, the US federal government official in charge of Medicare and Mediaid, told doctors at a conference, 'You should be embarrassed if you prescribe Nexium.'

The majority of clinical trials found no difference between the drugs. One found a difference in recovery rates of just three percentage points (86.9 percent compared to 89.9 percent). It costs around $160 more a year than the cheaper drugs.


IN THIS WEEK snapshots from history - 20 Years ago

Bombing of the US embassy and French buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, kills 241 US soldiers and 58 French soldiers. Bombings and Lebanese resistance to foreign occupation forces the US to pull out of Lebanon.

US president Ronald Reagan had sent troops to intervene to shore up US interests in the Middle East.


Designer dogs are in fashion

PAMPERED PETS are the latest fashion accessory for the rich. Hotel heiress Paris Hilton dresses her chihuahua Tinkerbell in a pink chanel suit with matching shoes.

Hilton once bought Tinkerbell a $1,500 bag. If you can't afford a chanel suit, don't worry-you will soon be able to indulge your pooch. Designer sunglasses for dogs will soon be hitting the streets. Christian Blank, owner of Dog-Goes, said, 'The chrome and blue is aimed mainly at dogs who are driven round by their owners in an open-top Jaguar or something similar.'


Flush with taxpayers' cash

THOUSANDS of pounds will go down the toilet if officials in Barnet, north London, get the go-ahead to do up the mayor's toilet and utility room. Some £12,935 has been earmarked to spend on the project, which includes £1,500 on a new shower cubicle, £5,795 on new kitchen cabinets and £3,050 on tiling, light fittings and 'decoration'. There has been a 24 percent council tax hike in the area.
Thanks to John McPatz


Real cost of crackdown

A FATHER of three died of a heart attack after his partner was sent to jail for benefit fraud. Gary Wood died the same day a magistrate sentenced girlfriend Brenda Greet to four months.

Brenda was due some benefits but not everything that she had claimed. She had begun repaying the money last March. A judge later quashed Brenda's jail term.


Slaughter is finally uncovered

A MASSACRE of Vietnamese villagers in which US soldiers cut off the villagers' ears to wear as necklaces was hushed up by the US army. The atrocity has only recently come to public knowledge.

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, an elite unit of US soldiers mutilated, tortured and killed hundreds of unarmed villagers in a seven- month reign of violence.

Army officials found out about the atrocities in 1971. It took a further year to launch an investigation. Two of the investigators pretended to look into it while encouraging soldiers to keep quiet.

Sergeant Forrest Miller told army investigators that the killing of prisoners was an 'unwritten law'. Former medic Rion Causey said, 'Everybody was bloodthirsty, saying, 'We're going to get them back'.'

In one incident Lieutenant James Hawkins, the unit's field commander, shot an elderly carpenter. US soldiers shot or stabbed at least 78. The investigation said 18 soldiers had committed 20 war crimes. After four and a half years the investigation was wound up and no one was ever charged.


Shop this editor

SUN EDITOR Rebekah Wade was forced to make a change of mind after the screening of the BBC's The Secret Policeman documentary. The programme exposed shocking racism within the police. The Sun slammed the documentary and the journalist Mark Daly in the run-up to its airing.

It screamed, 'The BBC was branded a disgrace last night-after refusing to scrap a show which trapped cops making racist remarks.' At the end of the article it asked, 'Did you meet PC Mark Daly when he was on the beat? Call the Sun on...'

But after the documentary there was an outcry over police trainees' racist comments. The Sun's editorial, under the headline 'Root them out', argued, 'The TV exposure of racist police trainees will have made all decent people weep. 'Never before have trainee officers been shown to be such wicked, gloating, bigoted, foul-mouthed scum. The rotten apples must be rooted out long before they can taint the barrel.'

It ended with, 'Do you know Rob Pulling or the other cops exposed as racists? Phone the Sun on...'


Figure it out - £340 million

The amount spent on the new Ministry of Defence building. It will house ministers, civil servants and military personnel. Over 80 percent of visitors complained its double glazing made it too quiet.


Who says?

'You've come along with your stupid nonsense and made this kind of comment when I've convened a conference like this to be able to provide homes for people who can't afford them, who want affordable homes. You should be questioning me about that.'
John Prescott on being grilled by ITN journalist Libby Wierner about his four homes

'The only thing more unpopular among Labour MPs than top-up fees is Peter Mandelson.'
Whitehall insider on news that Mandelson has set up a 'war room' to push the scheme through parliament

'Iraq's assets are not for sale.'
Hilary Benn international development secretary

'If the Iraqi economy is going to grow, it's going to happen.'
Paul Bremer head of Iraq's US-led authority with a different view of privatisation

'There is 'a reasonable suspicion' that the suicide bombers are foreign nationals because the attacks were 'criminal and sacrilegious, but also amateurish'.'
Brigadier General Mark Hertling reported in the Guardian

'We have no evidence of an infusion of foreign fighters into Baghdad.'
General Martin Dempsey speaking from Baghdad on Sunday


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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 1 Nov 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1875
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