As the days lengthen and things warm up in England, historically it has been the time for the people to get restive.
Eight Hundred years ago, the people meant a group of us who counted – we called ourselves the Barons. There were other human beings – our serfs – who worked for us. Today, in theory even the serfs count.
Next Sunday, June 15, Eight Hundred years ago, we refused to accept King John’s right to rule in England as he had been doing, and confronted the king at Runnymede.
Today’s Barons are the Doctors. Doctors make a living out of the work done by the rest of the population – swallowing pills. These doctors are highly unlikely to confront Andrew Witty or any of the big beasts of the pharmacockracy – unless some of them do so as shareholders.
Eight Hundred years ago a charter was hammered out between us and the king that has since become known as Magna Carta. Today something similar is needed. The forthcoming publication of Study 329 will make clear why.
Up till June 15, John and other kings were absolute rulers, whose right to govern came directly from God rather than from the people. When this right was questioned the Pope weighed in on the side of the king, excommunicating anyone who questioned the authority of the monarch.
Magna Carta was based on two principles – the principle of No Taxation without Representation and the principle of Due Process. These principles are fundamental to most political systems today.
The area of politics that counts most for most of us is healthcare. Big Healthcare is now the biggest business in the United States and in the Western World. We desperately need a new compact between we the people and those who govern our healthcare – or at least a new compact between the doctors who make money for pharma by putting pills in our mouths and the Witty’s of this world.
No taxation without representation
No one bats an eyelid at the idea that the United States is pretty market oriented compared to the more communal or socialist systems found in Europe with Great Britain usually seen as sitting somewhere in the middle.
So it is surprising if you put UK PLC and US PLC into google and see what happens. Google recognizes UK PLC and Great Britain PLC but not US or United States PLC.
There was no google in the twentieth century. Had it been there, it would have started throwing up hits from the late 1960s when British Labour politicians (who used to be very socialist back then) started mooting the idea of UK PLC. The ex-Empire was now a company that had to make its way in the wider marketplace. The Government, we were told, was like the Board. It wasn’t quite clear if the rest of us were the shareholders. We had some notional control over the Board – we could vote them out. Election debates today still mention UK PLC –Scotland PLC hasn’t come on the radar yet.
It’s an odd way to see your country. Neither the US nor any European country views itself in this way. But then the Brits invented PLCs as well as Magna Carta and cricket.
The same idea lies behind the Magna Carta and a meeting of the shareholders of a company – there should be some trade-off between the financial input of the stakeholders in the company (country) and their ability to influence policy. It is worth paying money in the form of investments or taxes if the ship of state is being steered in a reasonable direction but not otherwise.
In health we pay either relatively directly or indirectly through insurance systems or government taxation for the benefits we receive. At present, our barons make money for pharma by putting pills in our mouths but pills that keep companies healthy rather than us healthy.
This happens because of a Flash Boy situation. The healthcare market (stock exchange) should produce better healthcare outcomes (channel money to genuinely productive ends). But neither the stock market nor healthcare support productive outcomes. Both have become a means to siphon money from the middle and working classes to a bunch of Flash Boys. This is possible because as with the stock market, in healthcare no-one gets to see the data behind the transactions. Drugs that are bad for us can be palmed off as life-saving without anyone being any the wiser and we are sold a costly bag of goods.
But we are not just being taxed in terms of the money we pay to consume drugs we don’t need. There is a tribute taken from our bodies also in terms of our participation in clinical trials. Companies need clinical trials to get their drugs on the market in order to make billions from them. These trials involve us taking risks with drugs that often prove too dangerous to market. We do so for free. Not only that but when some of us are killed or injured we collude with hiding the data of our injuries and deaths. We have no more status than serfs.
Or at least this was the way until the clinical trial operation was largely outsourced to India and Africa leaving UK PLC scrambling to persuade GSK, Roche and Pfizer that it is open for clinical trial business and willing to divert its NHS patients into company trials.
It’s this taxation drawn from our bodies that should fuel a demand for representation – we should have a say in deciding what we need medications for and we should have access to the data from trials to check on how it is being represented.
When trials run on our children lead to representations that paroxetine is effective and safe even though the actual data shows exactly the opposite – it’s time to intervene.
The other key element to Magna Carta was the idea that we are all equal before the law, kings and commoners, and that all have a right to a fair trial.
This principle established the rule of law and laid the basis for democracy. This is a basic Right that provides a basis for all other Rights.
Rather than assassinate the King or seethe with murderous fantasies (Anonymous) we can take him to Court. Rather than be executed at his whim, we have the right to a fair hearing by a Jury of our Peers (just for the record Peers means other Noblemen).
The capacity of plaintiffs in the United States to take legal actions when they or their families are injured by treatments probably stands between the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies and an attempt to exact physical retribution (See Data Wars and Pharmaceutical Rape).
But even in the United States, there is a real problem. When we participate in clinical trials today, companies get to sequester the data from these trials in flagrant breach of the ethics and norms of science and yet parade their representations of those results as science. The participation of some of us in those trials puts all of us in a state of legal jeopardy. In the US, we may get our day in Court, but we will have the data from clinical trials in which our friends and families participated used against us.
We have entered a bizarre Wonderland where Queen John or Andrew can say off with our head if she wishes to or can say what happens on a drug is what I say happens – regardless of what in fact does happen.
It’s a world where increasingly we will be told by Sense about Science in the UK and related bodies in the US, Canada, Australia or wherever that to question the judgments of the scientific literature is to engage in an irrational War on Science itself. We may have a right to Due Process in the US (nowhere else) but even in the US, courts are no longer a place where rationality prevails.
Not a Peep from the Pope about the right to Due Process or Representation.
Meanwhile David Cameron on behalf of UK PLC has launched into an anti-corruption crusade – but there won’t be a word about this lack of due process or the extraordinary corruption of the scientific literature – on which hinges vastly more money than was ever dreamt of by Sepp Blatter and FIFA.