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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 May 2014

Pfizer takeover bid

Nationalise to serve 'public interest'

'Big pharma', notorious for ripping off the public purse with overpriced, ineffective and sometimes dangerous drugs, is once again displaying its rapacious appetite for profit in the current multibillion takeover bid of US based Pfizer for UK based AstraZeneca.

The rationale behind Pfizer's acquisition move is twofold. It wants to avoid paying taxes back in the US by spending its accrued overseas dollar cash pool. And it also wants access to new drugs without investing in research.

Should Pfizer succeed, then it's a racing certainty that thousands of jobs will be axed and research and development (R&D) facilities closed, in both companies.

Former head of Pfizer's R&D, Dr LaMattina, admitted: "In major mergers today, not only are R&D cuts made, but entire research sites are eliminated. Nowhere is this more evident than with Pfizer."

In 2011, 1,500 jobs were axed and part of its laboratory in Sandwich, Kent - where Viagra was invented - was shut.

Labour leader Ed Miliband attacked Tory Prime Minister David Cameron as being a "cheerleader" for the takeover, and said that it's not in AstraZeneca's workers' interests. Cameron in turn said he had received "robust" assurances from Pfizer on UK jobs and investment.

Ownership

But the suggestion that a 'British' multinational company is better for jobs and R&D than a 'foreign' multinational is false. As the Institute of Directors points out, AstraZeneca is "run by a Frenchman and chaired by a Swede".

Also, the board of AstraZeneca is stuffed with former investment bankers. How can these people be trusted to ensure future jobs and R&D facilities in the UK any more than the bigwigs at Pfizer?

In fact, not that long ago, AstraZeneca axed 11,000 jobs worldwide in 2012-13 including hundreds of jobs in the UK and the relocation of 1,600 posts when it moved its R&D HQ from Cheshire to Cambridge. This relocation was despite the company previously getting a 5 million 'regional growth' grant, secured by Chancellor George Osborne.

Miliband and Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable's call for 'public interest' rules to govern such takeovers is largely empty rhetoric. They are simply playing to the electorate while, in complete contradiction, continuing to defend the capitalist 'free market'.

The only way to defend the public interest is to nationalise the pharmaceutical industry under democratic workers' control and management and use big pharma's resources to pioneer effective medical treatments at prices which don't undermine the National Health Service.

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In The Socialist 7 May 2014:


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