PBS Victory Anniversary approaching

You’ll hardly ever hear the words “Mark” and “Latham” uttered in the same sentence in ALP circles without the utterer mouthing a sneer and shooting a small gob of distaste at the nearest spittoon.   It’s become de rigour to demonize de-Latham in the ALP.   It’s just another little ritual of political correctness that the conservative opinionatii in this country have successfully foisted on the party, and to which we’re all (those few of us who are still members) now expected to doff our hat, for the purposes of party unity.
 
I’d like to take a moment though, to cast our minds back to this time two years ago when Mr. Latham as leader, was battling the HowGov’s plans to introduce the then suspect and  now questionable US Australia FTA.  
 
Latham, you will recall, was on the ropes.   Howard was bearing down on him, trying to get him to either reject the whole deal so that he could be painted as anti-American, or to just cave in and look weak.   Latham of course did neither.   Using imaginative third way triangulation he said he’d pass the deal, but the intellectual property laws and especially the proposed weakening of the PBS would have to change.
 
It was the threat especially to the PBS, that caught the imagination of the Australian public, and instead of it looking like Latham caved in, Howard himself was forced to eat some rare humble pie and accept Latham’s amendments.     It was a great moment for patriotic Australians knowing that a well designed and effective public institution, that was delivering real benefits to the public, was safe, for a time, from the extremists and ideologues within the government and the elite circles of media and big pharma.
 
What reminded me of those giddy times was the news today that big pharma has been manipulating clinical drug trials and has been insinuating itself into the very DNA of our medical establishment by winning over the hearts and minds of the nation’s doctors through the tried and true methods of flattery,   patronage and benefits.       The result is that the Australian public is no longer getting the best medicine that money can buy, but the best medicine that self-interest chooses to deliver.
 
For the medical elite, the result is a spreading ambiguity and erosion of professional independence. For the public, the issue is whether the advice given in media interviews ¢â¬â or even by their doctors ¢â¬â is tainted by drug company influence.
 
When we read these things we should never forget that the PBS is one of the few things standing in the way of big pharma, and we should be grateful that Mark Latham took it up to Howard and helped to protect it.  
 
The PBS today is far from safe, they’ll have another tilt, and we should be ready.   Today’s news is just a little reminder of that fact.

This entry was posted in Economics and public policy, Politics - national, Uncategorised. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
7 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

I don’t know about “political correctness” Rex. Latham’s ‘diaries’ were a fairly unmistakable testament of loathing for the ALP, encompassing every significant institution and player with the exception of Julia Gillard. I don’t think “Conservative opinionatii” were in any way crucial – or indeed necessary – in inculcating disaffection with Latham in the ALP. It’s all there, in his own words. The man emerges as a festering mass of score-settling resentment. Madder than a cut snake one might say.

I’m not sure that Latham’s amendment can be seen as a substantive change to AUSFTA though it did play well for him politically.

The other side to the Bad Big Pharma debate is of course the fact that Pharma clinical trials and research have pretty much delivered the entire panoply of modern pharmaceutical response – Oncology, HIV, etc. Drug companies do pour billions of dollars into marketing and it’s essential that the point of balance between research and application remains transparent and finely tuned but the reality is rather more mixed than you describe it.

One aspect that always amuses me is the fact that Australians spend around 2 billion a year on untested, unproven, eye of newt and tail of frog, “alternative” medicine, the major benefit of which appears to be confined to providing a bronze tint to the national urine.

The shelves of pharmacies across the land groan under the weight of over-priced concoctions that have no proven efficacy whatsoever apart from enhancing the bank balances of the providores.

Perhaps we could get Mark Latham on to it?

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

Just a little bit on Iron Mark but it seems to me the only reason he would deliberately cut off all contact with anyone in politics and the ALP is that his current health problem which was exacerbated by his battle with testicular cancer is much worse than any of us realise and he only has a limited time left.

This also explains why is so keen to be a live at home Dad.

To the PBS, I have never understood why the government needs to subsidise drugs for people.

derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

The other side to the Bad Big Pharma debate is of course the fact that Pharma clinical trials and research have pretty much delivered the entire panoply of modern pharmaceutical response – Oncology, HIV, etc.

The trouble with this assertion is that we’ve no counterfactual – if we’d done it differently (eg by laxer IP laws, a more liberal licensing regime combined with savage restrictions on marketing, much better funded governemnt research) we may have had even more and better drugs. We can’t know. We’d have had a different mix – rather more preventive drugs and rather fewer for long-term management of chronic conditions (so eg a vaccine for HIV but no effective treatment if you did get it), and also rather more drugs for third world diseases and rather fewer for Western age-onset ones.

But you’re spot-on about “complementary” medicine. I think there should be big smoking-style warnings on the packets (“There is no reason to believe that this product works”, “This product is a waste of money”, etc) to inform the market. That would get rid of the vast bulk of such “medicine”.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

What utter rubbish. Warnings on packets are completely ignored by the converted. (Some) people are smoking less, for example, because it’s been made so inconvenient and expensive, certainly not because of so-called warnings on cigarette packs.

Ken Parish
Admin
15 years ago

Yes, I quite agree, it’s manifestly complete balderdash, utter piffle. All those companies which advertise all sorts of products using scare tactics of one sort or another clearly know that it’s completely ineffective. They realise that the public completely ignore these tactics and are too smart to be taken in by them, and only persist because they feel sorry for James Packer and Kerry Stokes, and find it impossible to resist the temptation to donate huge amounts of money to them for commercial slots that do nothing to increase their sales. Both political parties are equally obviously beneficently inclined towards Packer and Stokes, because Labor and the Coalition both rely on scare tactic political advertising at election time, despite knowing that it does them no good at all. If only they’d all listen to sensible people like whyisitso and me.

Equally self-evidently, smoking is a habit only engaged in by the “converted” who are totally resistant to such messages. Only a commie would make the absurd suggestion that the marketing of tobacco companies is deliberately targetted at the youth market who aren’t hard-core “converted” at all, or that public education ads are rightly aimed at counteracting the brainwashing of the seductive, sexy images the tobacco companies peddle.

phil
15 years ago

Comp meds have to be vetted by the TGA for safety and quality and as such they get ‘listed’. The company cannot make any therapeutic claim. If they want to go the extra mile and get ‘registration’, the same as for prescribed pharmaceuticals, they have to get the clinical evidence to prove efficacy. Whether individuals feel they get any benefit from a ‘listed’ comp med is up to them. I take some and believe they have alleviated symptoms, I’ve taken others that have had no discernable effect. Free market. Caveat emptor and all that stuff.

derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

I actually knew that, phil. But the bit about efficacy is narrowly specified and laxly enforced. Witness names such as “Stress Formulation” for multivitamins or “Horny Goat Weed” for a supposed Viagra substitute, or ads showing a hungover person taking a Berocca. Not to mention the flagrant quackery that you’ll see in any health food shop (take a browse at the dietary supplements and you’ll see what I mean).

A big blunt warning would counter this sort of crap by ensuring an informed market.