Your case Study on the drug industry (NI 147) gave the impression that British National Health (NHS) patients would not be harmed in any way by the recent government measures restricting the number of medicines available to them. Yet The Times on June 1 cited the case of a two-year-old deprived of a medicine for treating ‘glue ear’. And the Morning Star two days later reported that an elderly woman was now having to pay £80 a month to keep her spastic daughter alive ‘because of government restrictions on drugs available on the NHS’. These were not instances that could be attributed to the ‘propaganda’ of multinational drug companies.
Your article also claimed that British doctors can prescribe from 17,000 different items’. This is inaccurate. The UK drug list, the British National Formulary, contains just 2,279 branded preparations available for prescription by doctors.
Finally you claim that some drug companies ‘spend up to 20 per cent of sales turnover on promotion’ and omit to point out that the government, under the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (the PPRS), restricts promotion expenditure to just nine per cent of sale to the NHS.
Dr J P Griffin
Ed. note: A clinical pharmacologist comments that one drug, believed by some to be helpful in the treatment of ‘glue ear’, was initially excluded from the list of drugs available to doctors in the National Health Service. It has now been reinstated. For spacitity, alternative adequate and proven drugs are available on the NHS.
The figure of 17,000 drugs includes all brands and formulations. It was computed by the author of Bitter Pills. Diana Metrose. together with David Taylor from the above correspondent’s own organisation. the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. The British National Fomulary does not claim to he a comprehensive list of all the available drugs.
Ms Meirose comments that some drug companies spend up to 20 percent of their total international sales turnover on advertising and other promotion techniques. This promotion percentage varies between countries, and is generally higher in the Third World than in countries where government regulations are tighter, such as the UK.
In the New Internationalist interview with Professor Galbraith, I disagree with his opinion that ‘You cannot persuade the hungry to forgo food and buy clothing. And you cannot persuade someone who is cold to forgo shelter and buy cosmetics. In the poor society, "wants" have a Strong physical base.’
My experience during many years in Africa was that the tentacles of the ‘persuasion’ machine were reaching further into the cities and are having the same effects as in affluent societies. Poor people - although perhaps not the very poorest - were willing to ‘tighten their belts’ further to have fashionable soft drinks or cosmetics.
This might be because they feel they have a right to enjoy the ‘good’ things of life even though they are poor. But undoubtedly they have been persuaded in the first place by the persuasion machine that these things are indeed ‘good’.
I take issue with one theme in the May issue on market forces: the notion that the fundamental problem is the sheer size of modern large-scale production, regardless of the social system in which it operates.
While it is clear that giant unwieldy bureaucracies can be significant in the unresponsiveness, inappropriateness and irrelevance of production, it is not the only criteria. The question of whether production is organised for the satisfaction of human need or for the maximisation of profit is the central point. This is why some form of social ownership and control of production remains the strategic tool in our efforts to humanise production. It is surely still a necessary - though not exclusive - condition for a radical change in our affairs.
The Midland connection
In the ‘Consumers’ Guide to Alternatives’ (NI 147). British readers are advised not to bank with Barclays, Lloyds or the Midland. I knew about Barclays’ involvement with South Africa. and the article mentions Lloyds’ loans to Chile but what is the Midlands connection?
Ed. note: Chile Solidarity Campaign says that ‘the Midland is the British representative on the international consortium of creditor banks currently giving loans to Chile’. In South Africa. the Midlands involvement is trade-related, assisting British companies like GEC through loans and also through its part-ownership of banks which are directly involved, such as the US Crocker Bank and the UK Montagau finance house.
Referring to the ethical savings item in the May issue, there is another scheme called the Stewardship Fund of the Friends’ Provident Life Office. In its own words, the Fund ‘will, as far as posible, only invest in the ordinary shares of carefully selected UK companies, the bulk of whose products, services and operations and considered to be of long-term benefit to the community both in this country and overseas. Regard may also be had to the political and social attitude of countries in which companies trade or have a substantial interest, and to the economic impact of their business and social activities. Effect is given to this investment policy by investing mainly in the Stewardship Unit Trust’ which like the Fund operates from Pixham End, Dorking. Surrey RH4 lQA.
H E Hilev
Pennies for heaven?
Do not lightly advocate religion-based savings organisations. Religions have been screwing up the world for thousands of years, and are still doing it.
No nuclear power
Your readers may be interested to hear about the Consumer Campaign whose participants demonstrate their opposition to nuclear power by withholding a percentage of their electricity bill. Please write for more details to the address below.
Reacting to Richards
Huw Richards’ view of behaviourism (NI 146) was distorted, Behaviourism implies that people are reactors, not actors, controlled by genes and environment and it states that behaviour can be modified. It then proceeds to formulate laws to which behaviour modification conforms. It does not however act as judge on issues of which behaviours should be modified for as Richards says. this is a social and political decision - outside the range of science.
Surely the article should have attacked the people who abuse behaviourism’s findings, rather than the science itself?
The bad workman is at fault, not the tools.
Behaviourists are not mind managers - that is done by others in positions of power.
Est is est
I know the intent of the piece was a tongue-in-cheek look at so-called ‘cults’ and I can appreciate the poke at our work. But there are a good many people who would not like the comments.
More than 500,000 people in 120 countries have participated in the Est Training and its successor, the Forum. These people come from all walks of life, even New Internationalist readers. To blanket them as ‘suckers’ is insulting.
Such people have pioneered worldwide charitable organisations such as the Breakthrough Foundation, Holiday Project and Hunger Project which together have our four million people. These organisations seek progress in areas such as bringing development projects to the Bombay slums, alleviating starvation in Africa and Cambodia (sic); working with juveniles, the disabled and those in hospitals and in prisons in Israel, Canada, the US and the UK.
The UN Decade for Women has made some progress, but the achievements of the last ten years are just a drop in the ocean in the fight against the injustices faced by women throughout the world.
This summer, Scottish Education and Action for Development (SEAD) is launching a new one per cent self-tax campaign on women and developing topics, giving people the opportunity to join a growing network. The campaign has two purposes - to support women’s self-help initiatives, and to help fund SEAD’s work in this area. For further information please write to the address below.
April issues’s review of Karen Blixen’s ‘Out of Africa’ mentions an episode where a ‘Kikuyu named Kitosch enraged the whites by exercising his firm will to die’. There is a different account of this incident in the book by exiled Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiongo. Ngugi says that Blixen is dehumanising Africans by suggesting they die in captivity like wild animals.
What probably happened is that the man, who was arrested for. theft, received the customary brutal beating and later died from his injuries. Before he died he said in Swahili ‘I am going to die’. The words can also be translated as ‘I want to die’ which is what Blixen naively believed he meant.
In NI 147 the article ‘Junking the generals’ states ‘the soldiers had been ruling Uruguay for the past 12 months’. May I correct that information for they ruled the country for the past 11 years. A slight mistake, but a big difference.