Socialist Worker

Big pharma caught over charging and missing tax

Issue No. 2764

drug companies

There are huge profits in the pandemic for Drug companies


Top drug companies have been found guilty of increasing the price of a life-saving steroid treatment by more than 10,000 per cent and ­paying rivals to stay out of the market.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said last week that Auden Mckenzie and Actavis UK, now known as Accord-UK, had “charged the NHS excessively high prices for hydrocortisone tablets for almost a decade”.

Hydrocortisone is used by tens of thousands of people who suffer from adrenal insufficiency, which includes life-threatening conditions such as Addison’s disease.

Auden Mckenzie and Actavis UK increased the price of a 10mg packet by more than 10,000 percent compared with the original branded version of the drug.

The increases meant that the cost to the NHS of a single pack of 10mg tablets rose from 70p in April 2008 to £88 by March 2016, a 12,471 percent increase. The price of a pack of 20mg tablets rose from £1.07 to £102.74 per pack, a 9,501 percent rise.

The CMA said the NHS was ­spending approximately £500,000 a year on hydrocortisone tablets before 2008, rising to more than £80 million by 2016.

The CMA fined Accord-UK and former parent companies Intas, Accord and Allergan £155 million for overcharging.

But big pharma companies regard such measures as little more than the cost of doing business.

lVaccine producer Moderna is setting up in Switzerland and the US state of Delaware to cut its tax bill on vaccine sales.

The Research on Multinational Corporations last week cited a leaked contract between the company and the European Commission.

It “indicates that the company’s vaccine profits will end up in some of the world’s worst tax havens.”

The EU, which has ordered hundreds of millions of Moderna vaccine doses, pays the company’s Swiss subsidiary, Moderna Switzerland GmbH, based in Basel, Switzerland.

The country offers tax rates as low as 13 percent for foreign companies.Another tax haven is Delaware, where the company holds 780 patents.

Under state law, income from intangible assets such as patents isn’t taxed.

The company has received millions in public funding, especially from the US government.


MPs betting on free stuff from bookies

Seven Tory MPs and two of Keir Starmer’s Labour frontbenchers took free hospitality from betting and gambling companies worth thousands of pounds in order to attend Euro 2020 football matches, the official register of interests has shown.

The seven Tories included Esther McVey, the former work and pensions secretary, who was seen as a Tory attack dog against “scroungers”. She accepted a £3,457 ticket package for England v Denmark.

Her husband, the Tory MP Philip Davies, declared the same freebies.

The Blackpool South MP Scott Benton racked up almost £8,000 worth of hospitality from various companies for England football games, as well as hospitality at Wimbledon and Royal Ascot.

Labour’s Toby Perkins, a shadow skills minister, took the same package as McVey from Entain, the Gibraltar-based sports betting company that owns Ladbrokes.

Mark Tami, an opposition whip, took £1,961 from Power Leisure bookmakers to see England play Germany.

The gambling and betting industry hosted the MPs at a time when the government is undertaking a comprehensive review of the Gambling Act to consider further restrictions on their advertising.

Some MPs raised concerns during the Euros that gambling companies had been advertising heavily during the tournament.

Three Tory MPs, Graham Stuart, Stuart Andrew and Ben Bradley, were all given tickets to England v Germany at Wembley with hospitality worth £1,961 by Power Leisure.

No MPs have yet registered hospitality for the Euro 2020 final, so a string of further declarations is likely at the next publication of the MPs’ register of interests.


Women forced to reveal rapes to keep benefits

Official figures released last week showed that since 2019, there has been a 160 percent rise in the number of women forced to tell bureaucrats they had become pregnant from a rape, in order to escape the two-child limit on benefits.

In the year to April 2019, 510 women were exempted from the cap due to non-consensual conception. But by April 2021, this had risen to 1,330

More than 1 million children have been affected by the government’s two-child limit on benefits during the pandemic, according to the same set of figures.

They show that in the year to April 2021, 1.1 million children living in 318,000 households were hit by the cap which limits Universal Credit and child benefit support to the first two children in a household.

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on larger families. The number affected by the two-child limit is up 27 percent from 2020 figures and nearly double 2019 levels.


Cashpoint Cameron rolls in pay and perks

Tory David Cameron was paid a salary of more than $1 million (£720,000) by Greensill Capital. This is the finance company whose dramatic collapse exposed the former prime minister’s extensive lobbying efforts.

Cameron received the large annual salary for his part-time advisory role. This included an increasingly desperate attempt to secure government funds for the ailing company.

Cameron was contracted to work 25 days a year as an adviser to the board, meaning he earned the equivalent of more than £35,000 a day.

Cameron, also claimed £113,000 of public money to run his private office in the past year. Former prime ministers can claim a “public duty cost allowance”.

What our cash bought is unfortunately private apparently. He has claimed £497,064 since leaving office.


Gammon Broadcasting News responded to its last few viewers boycotting the channel because a Tory had taken the knee with a grim inevitability. They sacked—cancelled even—said Tory former Johnson spin doctor Guto Hari. Since Andrew Neil has left to spend more time with his money in France, the channel has appointed Nigel Farage to save the day. They deserve each other.


Apple paid just £9 million in tax in Britain last year as its sales hit over £1.1 billion. In recently filed accounts Apple Retail UK and Apple UK—posted revenue of £1.1 billion and £372 million in 2020. Pre-tax profit for the divisions came in at £31 million and £44 million for the year to 29 September. Yet Apple’s combined bill was just £9.2 million.


Things they say

‘I don’t want to engage in a political culture war of any kind, I want to get on with delivering for the people of this country’

Boris Johnson

‘There is an unpleasant odour wafting out from under my party’s front door’

Andrew Mitchell, Conservative MP isn’t convinced by the direction of his party

‘I find it hard to believe that it’s been 44 years since I became your Colonel in Chief’

The Prince of Wales as he presented new Colours to the Parachute Regiment—the same week as an amnesty for British war criminals was announced

‘Communism is a failed system, a universally failed system, and I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute’

US president Joe Biden


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