September 24, 2019

U.K. Labour Party Pledges State-Owned Drugs Maker to Cut Prices
(Bloomberg) -- Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party, said he would set up a state-owned drugs maker as he promised to drive down the costs of medicines used by the U.K.’s National Health Service.“We will redesign the system to serve public health -- not private wealth -- using compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines,” Corbyn said in a speech to the party’s annual conference in Brighton, southern England, on Tuesday. “We’ll tell the drugs companies that if they want public research funding then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all.”Corbyn’s plans signal a further attack on large corporations after his party pledged to nationalize energy transmission companies and water utilities if it wins a general election expected this fall. Business groups, including the British Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry, have signaled disquiet at a range of policies espoused by the veteran left-winger.Labour detailed their plan for a state-owned drugs maker in a document entitled “Medicines for the Many: Public Health Before Private Profit.” The plan cited precedents, including in Cuba and China.Each year the government spends billions of pounds on research but then “has to spend billions more purchasing the drugs that are developed out of this research,” it said. The development of a state-owned drug maker is a goal that would be implemented within five years of taking power, Corbyn’s office said after his speech.‘Public Need’“The government needs to play a more active role to ensure that rewards and incentives for innovation are tailored to areas of greatest public health need, rather than toward maximizing monopoly-driven profits,” Labour said in the document.Compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented drugs amounts to “the seizure of new research,” Richard Torbett, from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said in a statement.“It would completely undermine the system for developing new medicines,” he said. “It would send a hugely negative signal to British scientists and would discourage research in a country that wants to be a leader in innovation.”The ABPI’s alarm at the plan reflected wider concerns from businesses at Labour’s socialist agenda to transform the U.K. economy.“An entire Labour conference passes with no mention of the value business brings to communities and workers across the U.K.: the jobs they create, the people they train, the innovation they deliver,” CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said in a statement. “Instead, firms have faced a volley of attacks, on sectors from life sciences to utilities. This is desperately disappointing.”While no election is due until 2022, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Corbyn himself, have said they want an early national vote -- but disagree over its timing. Corbyn has withheld his party’s support for snap poll until he’s sure a no-deal departure from the European Union on Oct. 31 has been averted.\--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman and James Paton.To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in Brighton, England at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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