Monday 4 February 2013

EU Puppets On A Pharma String

There is an enlightening article at HuffPo describing an EU approach which won't surprise we jewel robbers.
Let us take an example: a current and apparently very technical affair sheds some light on the complexity of the European machinery and how this complexity can be used by private interests to hijack Europe. The case concerns ORPHACOL, a medicine for the treatment of two extremely rare and serious types of orphan liver disease which can be life-threatening, often very soon after birth, if not treated. This medicine is a product of academic clinical research of a hospital in Paris. A marketing authorization was requested to make it available not only in France but all over Europe. 
Despite more than 20 years of use in France, despite the unanimously positive opinion of the European Medicine Agency's (EMA), despite a qualification of the medicine as having a "notable public health interest," despite the repeated expression of a favorable opinion from Member States, the marketing authorization was refused by the European Commission. 
The European Commission has no scientific expertise whatsoever. It systematically follows the opinions of European Agencies and expert committees of the Member States. In the history of centralized marketing authorization of medicines, it is the first time that a series of scientific opinions are not followed suit by the European Commission.
It may have been the first time, but certainly not the last. Nor, in fact, is it anywhere near as damaging as the worst example.
This unprecedented case must lead to the question: Why? What are the motives of the European Commission and who stands to benefit from these protracted procedures and refusals? 
As I have raised at the European Parliament during several committee meetings, everything leads to the conclusion that the aim is to favor an (American) pharmaceutical company that has belatedly requested a marketing authorization for a similar medicine.
The EU in hock to pharmaceutical interests? Say it ain't so!

Now, this was written by lefty EU parliament member Gilles Pargneaux, and was prefaced with a couple of paragraphs which seemed to imply that the resignation of John Dalli was somehow the fault of tobacco lobbying rather than a bribe which was definitely solicited by Dalli's closest political ally.

Of course, Dalli's tobacco products directive was a disgraceful abuse of scientific evidence in its own right, as well as a document which wilfully treated EU citizens who responded with utter contempt.
Of the citizens who submitted their opinions, more than eight out of ten, 84 percent, support lifting the export ban on snus. 86 percent of government representatives and 74 percent of industry representatives wish to lift the ban. Only among lobbyists and NGOs is there a slim majority, 56 percent, who want to keep the ban on snus. 
The EU Commission, however, dismisses a significant portion of the responses from the 82,000 citizens on the grounds that two-thirds are from Italy and Poland, where tobacco merchants organised petitions. 
But even if we exclude these two countries, the majority is still for lifting the export ban on snus, 10-6, when respondents are broken down by country. 
DN's review of the 400 responses in this group shows that even among the responses from parliamentarians, municipalities, government agencies and ministries a large majority, 71 percent, support lifting the export ban. 
Even when only EU governments and ministries are included, there is still no majority against snus, but rather 3-3.
Yet the EU tobacco products directive still concluded that snus should remain banned ... to the relief of the pharmaceutical industry and the detriment of the hundreds of thousands of people (by the EU's own estimates) who will die as a result of alternatives being restricted. And that's not adding in Dalli's proposal to effectively ban e-cigs too.
The European Commission's health directorate claims to have received responses from governments who in other ways support the ban on snus, but refuses to show them.
But that, apparently, is democracy in action and perfectly acceptable. Not a whisper will be raised about it.

Listen, Buster, while we can all agree that your example is appalling, if you want to talk about how pharma interests are buying the EU, it might be worth pointing an accusatory finger at Dalli's directive which is now being hastily bludgeoned through the procedures before investigations of corruption have concluded.

Notwithstanding, he does raise an interesting point. Who exactly is running the EU? Vast business interests seem to be pulling strings in the Commission, and - contrary to daft claims from venal fantasists in the tobacco control industry - all indicators tend to point to big pharma as the puppeteers.


Tatty said...

"This unprecedented case must lead to the question: Why?"

Well, how on earth are they supposed to get on with the job of deciding who lives and who dies if people will just keep on butting in and demanding to be allowed to live.

It doesn't half make the working day drag, y'know.

Sam Duncan said...

Exactly. Contra Dick, the interesting point raised isn't who's running the EU, its why anybody's running the EU at all.
scandal here isn't that some “private interest” has “hijacked” “Europe”;
the scandal is that there's a “Europe” to hijack in the first place, and that a business needs to appeal for Brussels' gracious permission
to sell its medicine at all. Anyone who thought a system like that could be run by high-minded impartial supermen and not be influenced by partisan interests needs his head examined.

Sam Duncan said...

Grr. Stupid Disqus.

DP said...

Dear Mr Puddlecote

So not only have these unelected, unaccountable individuals hijacked the reigns of power to lavish themselves with fabulous salaries, expenses and other perquisites, whilst regulating everything and everyone to death, but are also prostituting their fraudulent offices to the highest bidder to circumvent those rules.

I wonder how many times their salaries they could make? What was that chap asking for? Sixty million reichmarks?