Letters - FRFI 247 Oct/Nov 2015

Big pharma puts profits before people

On 10 August, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to Daraprim, the standard drug for the treatment of toxoplasmosis infections, which affects immune-compromised individuals such as AIDS and cancer patients. Over 60 million people in the US alone are chronically infected with the parasite T. gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. Daraprim only costs about $1 to produce, but just days after the acquisition, Turing CEO and former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli hiked the price up by over 5,500% from $13.50 (£8.70) to $750 per tablet.

Shkreli described this as ‘a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders’. The annual cost of treatment for toxoplasmosis, could rise to between $300,000 and $630,000 per patient. This is a particularly egregious example of a widespread practice by large pharmaceutical companies for increasing sales and profits at the expense of the health of the world’s most disadvantaged people.

For instance, the US pharma giant Pfizer and the British drug company Flynn Pharma charged ‘excessive and unfair prices’ for anti-epilepsy drug Epanutin, used by up to 50,000 people in Britain, according to the Competition and Markets Authority. The cost shot up from £2.3m prior to 2012, to £50m in 2013 and £40m in 2014 – a 22-fold mark-up, after Pfizer sold the distribution rights to Flynn Pharma in 2012. The worst Pfizer and Flynn Pharma can expect is a fine.

As the revenues from the biggest-selling medicines decline and profits fall, so drugmakers have adopted a strategy of increasing mergers and acquisitions. The total value of global M&A deals in 2014 was $3.4 trillion. 21 drugs will lose patent-protected status by 2019. Big pharma is buying up drugs or companies with products they see as undervalued – and then jacking up the prices on those medicines.

This profiteering is costing national health systems dear and is unsustainable. Anti-austerity and anti-privatisation campaigns such as Keep Our NHS Public, must take on this issue and in so doing take on these capitalist profiteers.

Charles Chinweizu


Wakefield prison on trial

The prisoner held in the most oppressive conditions and labelled as the most dangerous in the country, Dano Sonnex, went on trial for allegations of assault against officers in Wakefield at Leeds Crown Court in August 2015. For the duration of his trial Dano was surrounded in the dock by a minimum of seven Wakefield prison officers, as well as having a stream of prison officer witnesses called at public expense. Considering the charges related to alleged attacks on Wakefield prison officers, it was strange to have them policing the trial but then the entirety of the case was abnormal.

Scheduled for two weeks, the trial didn’t get past the half-way point before the common assault was chucked out for being a false allegation made after Dano was himself the victim of an assault. The prosecution then accepted that the environment of the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) Exceptional Risk Unit at HMP Wakefield was so oppressive that it had severely damaged Dano’s mental health, causing him to suffer from psychotic episodes, meaning that if he had committed grievous bodily harm upon those detaining him within those conditions it was the fault of prison service management for subjecting a human being to this treatment, leaving Dano not responsible for any criminal act. Not guilty verdicts were directed by the judge on all charges without a defence even being presented to the court.

Given psychiatrists from all sides had accepted the continuing damage that isolation had caused to Dano’s mental health, he should never have been put through the ordeal of a trial at all. Nor would he have been if the CPS was not pressured so extensively by Wakefield prison.

Why it took this criminal trial to highlight the criminal treatment of Wakefield towards prisoners in the CSC is of concern, especially since the CSC has existed in its present form since 1998. Leading expert on isolation Dr Stuart Grassian has said: ‘It is a great irony that as one passes through the levels of incarceration – from the minimum to the moderate to the maximum security institutions, and then to the solitary confinement section of these institutions – one does not pass deeper and deeper into a subpopulation of the most ruthlessly calculating criminals. Instead, ironically and tragically, one comes full circle back to those who are emotionally fragile and, often, severely mentally ill. The laws and practices that have established and perpetuated this tragedy deeply offend any sense of common human decency.’

Meanwhile Dano Sonnex has been transferred to the segregation unit of another prison where his treatment will remain much the same. The CSC at Wakefield remains in operation as it was before. How long will the public continue to fund this abuse without question ?

Kevan Thakrar

HMP Wakefield

Anis Sardar writes from Belmarsh prison

I would like to thank you for your support and for building awareness about my case, bringing it into the public domain, telling the series of events that took place which led me to go to Iraq. It is upsetting to see the injustice our governments are enforcing, and which is masked by their statements that they are the torchbearers of justice and freedom, while their actions contradict the very statements they are proclaiming. Being a victim and witness of this injustice only reinforces it to be true.

My time in prison has honoured me to meet individuals, telling me about their stories, demonstrating how the justice system has failed and has no soul. Its only focus is convicting people, not showing any interest in their circumstances or showing any empathy. Its only concerns are figures and statistics, creating a society based on fear to justify their needs for more new powers and legislation which are slowly stripping away our own civil rights and freedom of speech and expression.

Please continue to build awareness about the campaign and spread the word.

Anis Sardar (A1582)

HMP Belmarsh

Anis has now been moved to HMP Long Lartin, South Littleton, Evesham, Worcester WR11 5TZ. For more details about his campaign see the last FRFI www.revolutionarycommunist.org/britain/police-prisons/4090-jf260815

and the campaign’s website at http://justice4anis.com/

No to evictions by One Housing Group


Protesters assembled outside the Gee Street County Court in central London on 1 September for a lively and well-attended demo. Two communes were facing eviction proceedings, and residents and supporters were out in full force, samba band and all.

The communes in question are in 44 Islington Park Street in north London, and the Crescent Road Community in Kingston-upon-Thames. They are both large and very beautiful community homes, the last of a series established in the early 1970s by a former Franciscan friar, Greg Moore. This philanthropist’s project was to set up a housing association that provided affordable homes where those in need and the vulnerable could live side by side with those without problems, as still happens in these two properties today.

But the corporate landlord which acquired the properties some years ago, One Housing Group (OHG), which manages 15,000 homes in London, now wants the tenants off these prime pieces of real estate. The Islington property alone is said to be worth £12m.

The residents of the communes are determined to fight back against this social cleansing.

Samir Dathi


Ingeus are rotten!

I’ve been in the hands of the government-sponsored Ingeus for six months now. They have been contracted by the UK government since 2002 to get people into work. This includes making them work for free for private companies on the work programme. As someone with a criminal record I have found it particularly hard to find work but the manager does not care and has accused me of lying about this despite my legal evidence. I have been sent for jobs around Scotland; Stirling, Edinburgh, Balloch and Ayr; and now they are trying to send me to Perth and Dundee. I recently found out from the jobcentre that I should be expected to travel for work no further than neighbouring East Kilbride. Their attitude against us stinks and we are given embarrassing government bus tokens to get to interviews. No matter the distance of travel or walking they expect us to go to jobs. They are a rotten company and we need to stick together against them!



FRFI 247 October/November 2015