Denounce Inhuman Measures Which Deprive Humanity
of Treatment for COVID-19

Trudeau Government Endorses Obscene Profiteering from a Cruel Illness

Picket outside Moderna shareholders' meeting, Boston, April 28, 2021

Medicine, as we are practising it, is a luxury trade. We are selling bread at the price of jewels... Let us take the profit, the private economic profit, out of medicine, and
purify our profession of rapacious individualism. -- Norman Bethune

The COVID-19 pandemic has fully revealed that blocking human centred solutions on every front has become the feature which best characterizes the government of Prime Minister Trudeau. His pandering to the demands of Big Pharma is one example, and a despicable one at that.

In this regard, his government has done everything to make sure Canadian research and development, and production facilities are stymied and the country is kept dependent on foreign ownership and control. His subservience to the Big Pharma oligopolies and cartels is every day more regrettable for the damage it causes humankind itself.

Prime Minister Trudeau not only refused to support the waiver of Intellectual Property (IP) vaccine rights, but in the same interview he announced $375 million in new funding for the "Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator," which is in addition to $940 million the government already committed. The ACT and COVAX Facility are aspects of the global vaccine pharmacare program to purchase vaccines from the Big Pharma cartels and distribute them globally.

Trudeau left it to his Minister of International Trade Mary Ng to defend Big Pharma and its monopoly right to expropriate obscene profits from the health crisis. She said Canada "firmly believes in the importance of protecting IP, and recognizes the integral role that industry has played in innovating to develop and deliver life-saving COVID-19 vaccines."

Innovative Medicines Canada, an industry group that represents some of the cartels of Big Pharma, sought to bolster the Trudeau government's refusal to waive vaccine IP rights, saying in a statement, "[Any waiver] will not address the real issues of trade barriers, global supply chain bottlenecks, and scarcity of raw materials that are impacting the supply of COVID-19 vaccines."

All these "real issues" are due to the usurpation of state power by the global financial oligarchy which it uses in its striving to take over and/or control competing interests and the global economy itself. The global economy is crying out for the removal of the narrow private interests which control it so that human brings can take it in a direction consistent with the demands of the times.

People familiar with the world trade in drugs point out that the issues of IP rights, trade barriers, global supply chain bottlenecks and scarcity of raw materials are deliberate policies to control the production and supply of pharmaceuticals, force up their market prices and ensure the existing Big Pharma cartels retain their iron grip on the sector.

A May article in the Toronto Star says, "Canada's refusal to waive intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines should be a crime against humanity." Shree Paradkar writes, "We've seen this circus before with the same criminal consequences. In 1996, antiviral therapy for HIV/AIDS was developed but was inaccessible to about 95 per cent of the world's people living with HIV, according to The Lancet. That's because one year prior, the creation of the World Trade Organization allowed companies to turn what were domestic patents into global ones. Nongeneric drugs cost about $10,000 a year at the turn of the century, and were well out of the reach of many people. Calls for affordable generic antiretroviral drugs [were] met by threats and lawsuits from pharmaceutical corporations. It took years to battle monopoly rights and finally make therapy affordable."

Doctors and others demonstrating at the Group of Seven (G7) health ministers meeting in Prince Charles' Duchy of Cornwall on June 2, demanded that the G7 provide vaccines to poorer countries instead of hoarding them for themselves. Health care workers calculated that people living in G7 countries are 77 times more likely to be offered a vaccine than those living in the world's poorest countries. At the current rate, it would take these countries some 57 years to fully vaccinate everyone. Protesters called on the G7 to "stop making empty promises and protecting the interests of pharmaceutical companies."

Anna Marriott, Health Policy Manager with Oxfam Great Britain, which is a member organization of People's Vaccine Alliance (PVA), denounced the obscene profiteering: "What a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease that we quickly create new vaccine billionaires but totally fail to vaccinate the billions who desperately need to feel safe. These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines. These vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity. We need to urgently end these monopolies so that we can scale up vaccine production, drive down prices and vaccinate the world."

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, which is a PVA member organization, said, "(It is) obscene that profits continue to come before saving lives," as patent holders refuse to share their technology and production facilities. Byanyima said the scientific research that went into the creation of effective vaccines against COVID-19 was funded and centred in public institutions and should in fact be considered a joint treasure of peoples' thought material from all over the world. However, the private oligopolies that control the resulting intellectual property and the means of production manipulate that knowledge and their control of production to expropriate private profit from the health emergency and drain social value and resources from where they are most needed.

Prime Minister Trudeau and his ministers act as pitiful cardboard cutouts and programmed voices created by the promotions departments of Big Pharma. The fact that there exists a media which repeats the refrain that they are serving the public interest with their pay-the-rich schemes shows the control Big Pharma has over the state power in the countries which call themselves advanced and indispensable democracies. The rapid rise in ownership and control of social wealth by the Big Pharma oligopolies and cartels underscores the necessity for a human-centred, owned and controlled pharmacare and pharmaceutical research and production system. The current system expropriates as private profit much of the new value pharmaceutical workers produce. The drain of social wealth into the hands of the global oligarchy and its control of vital products is not sustainable or in the interests of human societies.

The privately owned and controlled drugs are circulated as user pay commodities or through private or government insurance pharmacare systems. The enormous wealth concentrated in private hands dictates control over what research is conducted, what pharmaceuticals are produced and where they are distributed and their market price. The dual pandemic and opioid crises have exposed the dangers of imperialist control and aim of maximum profit over such important sectors as health care, seniors' care and education.

Beyond the issue of the Trudeau government's support of the further concentration of wealth in fewer hands, is the issue of how the control of the oligarchs and their backward aim of government decision-making blocks the people from having a say over the health care system. This usurpation of decision-making power has become the central problem which not only blocks human progress but is overseeing heinous crimes such as the ones which deprive entire countries of the coronavirus vaccines. The concentration of control in the hands of those whose aim is maximum private profit distorts the direction not only of the pharmaceutical sector but the entire health care industry, including seniors' care.

A human-centred system of decision-making over research, development and production of pharmaceuticals is necessary to keep the new value within the public domain where it is needed, and for the people to be able to have a say and exercise control over the sector's direction and operations. The produced value when realized is necessary for reinvestment to ensure the continued research and development of pharmaceuticals and their relation to people's health generally, and to affirm the right of all to health care without restrictions based on ability to pay.

Another key aspect is to be able to realize the value of health care in the other sectors and enterprises of the economy which profit from the purchase of the capacity to work of healthy workers who produce new value. All active enterprises benefit from having a supply of healthy workers without whom their operations would cease to function. All enterprises of a certain size must pay a portion of the exchange-value of healthy workers, with payment going to the human-centred pharmaceutical enterprises and all other enterprises within the health care sector.

The claim to health care is a human right. Hospitals, medical clinics, dentistry, eye and ear care, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and equipment in general are all necessary aspects of affirming a human-centred society. For this to happen, health care and all its parts must be under a human-centred system of control so as to be freely available to all without exception.

The value health care workers create must be made available to the health care sector to re-invest in health care and in other social programs. For this to happen, human-centred health care enterprises must be established based on workers who are able to deprive the financial oligarchy of its ability to deprive the people of the right to health care, and to restrict the oligarchs from interfering politically and profiting from the work of health care workers.

How to bring this into being is a project the working class must discuss and accomplish. The starting point is to demand and affirm the right to health care for all and to denounce and reject the current direction and control of health care by the oligarchy and governments at its disposal that have turned the people's health into a cash cow to exploit and pay the rich.

The alternative and new direction belong to the working people to build and bring into being. Let us together raise our voices and work together for a new direction that affirms the right of all human beings to health care.


1. The Sword, The Scalpel: The Story of Doctor Norman Bethune, by Ted Allan and Sydney Gordon, 1952.

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 6 - June 6, 2021

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