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dictatorship of the drug industry

Drug Companies and Government Conspire to Evade Vivisection Regulations

Democracy, as most of us would understand it, means Government by the people.

The Electorate votes for parties on the basis of the policies they say they will implement, such as the animal research policies that Labour promised [copies of these available from Uncaged]. In a democratic society, those promised policies that the public has endorsed through its choice of a governing party are then implemented.

This is the essential core of democracy - Government represents the will of the people.

Question:

What happens when democracy conflicts with the interests of the pharmaceutical industry?

Answer:

Pharmaceutical corporation executives demand an audience with the Prime Minister, where they tell him that democratic Government policy doesn't suit them, and they want him to investigate how Government can implement their demands to maximise their profits. The following paragraphs are excerpted by the report of the resulting joint Government/Big Pharma 'Task Force', published on 28 March 2001:

"1.1 The Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness Task Force (PICTF) was set up following a meeting in November 1999 between the Prime Minister and the CEOs of Astra Zeneca, Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham.

4.1 PICTF met for the first time on 13 April 2000 and drew its initial business to a close on 1 March 2001. The terms of reference focused on:

'The Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness Task Force will bring together the expertise and experience of the industry leaders in the UK with Government policy makers to identify and report to the Prime Minister on the steps that may need to be taken to retain and strengthen the competitiveness of the UK business environment for the innovative pharmaceutical industry.'

9.6 On Animal Welfare and Research, it was agreed that the increasing complexity of the regulatory process involved in obtaining licences to carry out animal studies... and the possible implications of the new Freedom of Information Act, have meant that the UK is increasingly perceived by industry as an unfavourable environment in which to conduct research involving animals...

9.7 The Task Force agreed substantial actions to streamline licensing procedures..."

(From Executive Summary, Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness Task Force, Final Report - March 2001 (jointly published by the Government and the ABPI) (www.advisorybodies.doh.gov.uk/pictf/pictf.pdf))

Lord Sainsbury chaired the working group that discussed how to weaken vivisection regulations (Section V - Science Base and Biopharmaceuticals). Just one of the astonishing things about this clique of industrialists and politicians is that it has made unilateral decisions on areas of policy that are the responsibility of other bodies such as the Home Office and the Animal Procedures Committee. Despite the implications for animal experiments, animal protection groups were systematically excluded from even participating in these discussions. It is this Task Force, and the working group chaired by Lord Sainsbury, which is responsible for subverting Government policy on animal experimentation.

Rubber-stamping

Throughout the PICTF discussion of animal experimentation regulation, it is presumed that the regulatory framework is nothing more than a process for simply granting licences rather than a process that actually scrutinises whether licences should be granted or not, as the law stipulates. Thus both the drug industry and the Government have inadvertently confirmed what anti-vivisectionists have been saying for years: the laws are systematically ignored, and the regulatory process is a rubber-stamping process, rather than the stringent, objective or rigorous process the public is lead to believe.

The "increasing complexity" that the drug companies complain of refers to the Labour pledges and policies to:

  1. "insist on the highest possible standards of animal welfare"
  2. "ensure that they are only used when essential for medical and other scientific research purposes" [we dispute whether it is essential, but that is separate matter]
  3. require all vivisection establishments to set up, by April 1999, Ethical Review Processes (ERPs) to monitor vivisection research proposals and practices.

Blocking progress

None of these measures address what we believe to be the fundamental moral and scientific imperative for the abolition of vivisection. But what they did represent was the potential for a gradual increase in the level of consideration given to the interests of animals when licences to vivisect were being considered. After all, the core element of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 is the cost/benefit assessment (Section 5(4)), which requires the harms that animals will suffer from an experiment to be weighed against the supposed benefit that would accrue to humans from the research.

More animal suffering

The Report claims that "streamlining licencing procedures" will lead to improvements in animal welfare. This is dishonest propaganda which insults the intelligence of the reader: there is no attempt to explain quite how such improvements would be achieved. In fact, by railing against even the tiniest improvements in the regulation of animal experiments, the drug industry in collaboration with the Government has:

  1. undermined democracy by failing to ensure that pre-election promises were fulfilled
  2. shown contempt for the rule of law by conniving to evade the requirements of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and the crucial cost-benefit assessment
  3. set the stage for more experiments of greater severity to be conducted on animals
  4. tried to block the application of the Freedom of Information Act to animal experiments.

The PICTF also recommended that the ABPI should be consulted whenever any Government policy that might affect the interests of the drug industry, such as vivisection policy, was being considered - a so-called "no surprises" policy (para 9.7).

Another agreed action plan (no. 50, Appendix 1) was for the drug industry to see how it could dismantle animal welfare regulations blocking the establishment of "whole animal pharmacology course in the UK."

Tony Blair wrote the Foreword to the PICTF report (see above). He stated:

"A key feature in maintaining the UK's attractiveness as a location for investment will be effective partnership at the highest levels between Government and industry. That is why I am delighted at the work and outputs of the PICTF."

The unparalleled access to and influence over political power enjoyed by unelected, unaccountable drug company executives is a chilling example of how democracy is being destroyed by corporate power. The PICTF aimed to pervert policy in a number of important areas in addition to animal testing, such as the way in which the NHS buys drugs, the structure of education, clinical research, and the assessment of the safety and effectiveness of new drugs. Not only will animal testing policy be dictated by the drug industry, but health, education and economic policy are also formulated in the corporate interest rather than the public interest. We don't remember Labour promising that before the last election.

Membership of the PICTF

  • Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
    Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health
  • Tom McKillop
    Astra Zeneca
  • Lord Sainsbury of Turville
    Minister for Science and Innovation
  • Baroness Blackstone
    Minister of State for Education and Employment
  • Nick Raynsford MP
    Minister for Housing and Planning
  • Stephen Timms MP
    Financial Secretary
  • Nigel Crisp
    Permanent Secretary/Chief Executive Department of Health
  • Sir Richard Sykes
    (then) Chairman of Glaxo Wellcome
  • J-P Garnier
    (then) Chief Executive of SmithKline Beecham
  • Bill Fullagar
    President of Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and Novartis UK, President
  • Vincent Lawton
    American Pharmaceuticals Group and Merck Sharp & Dohme
  • Trevor Jones
    ABPI Director-General

Source: p. 17 of PICTF report, and Department of Health Press Release 2001/0155, 28/3/01 "Prime Minister announces results of Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness Task Force - jointly published by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)"

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Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.