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Corbyn reveals documents showing US-UK meetings on deregulating NHS drug pricing

Published on 27/11/19 at 02:54pm

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has showed off documents that detail secret trade meetings between the US and UK Governments, where US corporations were seeking to force up prices for NHS drugs.

During a press conference in Westminster, Corbyn said that American Big Pharma has “ripped off the American people for years” and now these reports reveal they are ‘‘looking to do the same to us’’.

Corbyn and Labour have accused the Conservatives of wanting to make the NHS part of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. Corbyn added: “Perhaps Boris Johnson would like to explain why these documents confirm the US is demanding the NHS is on the table in the trade talks. These uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denial in absolute tatters. Voters have need to ask themselves some very serious questions, is the NHS safe in Boris Johnson’s hands?”

The leaked papers, going back to 2017, show that the US was pushing the UK Government into a hard Brexit. In terms of the NHS specially, they wanted to negotiate sweeping liberalisation to make the NHS more open to US drug companies. US officials also stated they felt that the UK does not pay enough for drugs and changes to their pricing policy must be included in a trade deal.

This follows a separate story yesterday which detailed talks in August 2018 between George Hollingberg, the former Trade Minister, John Saville, HM Consul General, and Bill Reid, the Senior Director of Public Policy at pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly.

The minutes of the meeting, obtained by campaign group Global Justice Now, show Reid was aiming for greater market access as well as data exclusivity and improved IP standards for its products. He was also looking for longer patents for their drugs to allow them to charge higher prices.

Andrew Hill, a drug pricing expert and adviser to the World Health Organisation, said that annual NHS drug bill would rise by £27 billion, to £45 billion, if it paid US drug prices, and that America’s goal is to ‘attack regulations’ that control British drug prices.

Conor Kavanagh

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