On a hot August afternoon in 2000, four Americans arrived for a secret meeting at the central London penthouse flat of an Indian billionaire drug manufacturer named Yusuf Hamied. A sixth person would join them there, a French employee of the World Health Organisation, who was flying in from Geneva, having told his colleagues he was taking leave. Hamied took his guests into the dining room on the seventh floor. The room featured a view of the private gardens of Gloucester Square, Bayswater, for which only the residents possess a key. The six men sat round a glass dining table overlooked by a painting of galloping horses by a Mumbai artist (Hamied has racehorses stabled in three cities). The discussion, which went on all afternoon and through dinner that evening at the Bombay Palace restaurant nearby, would help change the course of medical history. The number of people living with HIV/Aids worldwide had topped 34 million, many of them in the developing world. Hamied and his guests were … [Read more...] about Big Pharma’s worst nightmare
Affordable life insurance over 50
In 2010, the small community of specialists who pay attention to US road safety statistics picked up the first signs of a troubling trend: more and more pedestrians were being killed on American roads. That year, 4,302 American pedestrians died, an increase of almost 5% from 2009. The tally has increased almost every year since, with particularly sharp spikes in 2015 and 2016. Last year, 41% more US pedestrians were killed than in 2008. During this same period, overall non-pedestrian road fatalities moved in the opposite direction, decreasing by more than 7%. For drivers, roads are as safe as they have ever been; for people on foot, roads keep getting deadlier. Through the 90s and 00s, the pedestrian death count had declined almost every year. No one would have confused the US for a walkers’ paradise – at least part of the reason fewer pedestrians died in this period was that people were driving more and walking less, which meant that there were fewer opportunities to be … [Read more...] about Collision course: why are cars killing more and more pedestrians?
Why does it matter what medicines cost? If you are lucky enough to live in a country with comprehensive state-funded healthcare, such as the UK, you probably have no idea how much medicines really cost. But it can be a lot. Some drugs that have been around for ages are very cheap – aspirin, for instance, costs pence. It’s been out of patent and made by numerous companies competing to undercut each other’s price for decades. But new medicines, protected by 20-year patents, can cost hundreds of pounds a packet and sometimes thousands. The new breast cancer drug Kadcyla weighed in at a starting price of £90,000 per patient per year in the UK in 2015, though the manufacturer has now agreed a hefty discount for the NHS. It is an increasing pressure on all health systems around the world. In 2017, NHS England put its annual drugs bill at £16bn, £9bn of which is GPs prescribing, and said it was rising at 7% a year – faster than the overall NHS budget. … [Read more...] about Why do new medicines cost so much, and what can we do about it?
The Red Cross has just announced a new disaster-response partnership with Wal-Mart. When the next hurricane hits, it will be a co-production of Big Aid and Big Box. This, apparently, is the lesson learned from the US government's calamitous response to Hurricane Katrina: businesses do disaster better. "It's all going to be private enterprise before it's over," Billy Wagner, emergency management chief for the Florida Keys, currently under hurricane watch for tropical storm Ernesto, said in April. "They've got the expertise. They've got the resources." But before this new consensus goes any further, perhaps it's time to take a look at where the privatisation of disaster began, and where it will inevitably lead. The first step was the government's abdication of its core responsibility to protect the population from disasters. Under the Bush administration, whole sectors of the government, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, have been turned into glorified temp agencies, with … [Read more...] about Disaster capitalism: how to make money out of misery
This is what happens when the government targets you for zombie debt collection. You receive a letter from your state’s department of human services claiming that you were “overissued” $4,132 in food stamp and cash benefits in the 1980s. Enclosed is a copy of the original overpayment notice they say they sent you when you were still listening to Madonna and Bobby Brown. You don’t remember ever seeing it before. The letter informs you that, since you didn’t respond immediately three decades ago, your 90-day window to request a fair hearing and contest the overpayment has closed. You now have a debt, and it’s past due. The state threatens to refer this debt to the United States Department of Treasury, which has the power to withhold your federal tax return, your earned income tax credit, a portion of your military retirement pay – even your social security disability check. You are barely making ends meet, so the financial loss might mean doing … [Read more...] about Struggling Americans are haunted by zombie debt. Will you be next?