A BBC report has questioned the links of a UK charity with the pharmaceutical industry and drawn inferences between the charity’s funding and it’s advocating for wider access to these drugs on the NHS in England.
The report’s context is not uncommon in an age of austerity, citing scarce NHS resources being used for a singular group of patients and a charity pushing for its funder’s drugs to be bought by the NHS. Sadly, but predictably, we are in an age where service user groups and vested interests criticise each other on the use of a dwindling pot of money rather than the fundamental cause(s) and motivations that have rendered the economy into this position.
Charities like those involved with Hepatitis, have to cater for being able to have funds to advocate on behalf of victims and members, on the one hand, and being able to do so independently. There is a delicate balancing act that charities have to make to be, and be seen to be, independent from their funders, be they pharmaceutical companies who provide grants or indeed Governments who provide core funding. It is one which can sometimes be hard to maintain. Some would say the end justifies the means as long as the infected people are the sole motivating factor. Other views may be less pragmatic and more black and white, advocating ‘form’ over ‘substance’.
Unfortunately any charity that receives significant funding from a single source may appear to be influenced by that source. And while available money, the economy and third sector funding is in difficulty, the dilemma and criticism will remain, whether justified or not.
However, many argue the focus should be on the repeated profiteering of drugs/pharma companies to bulk buyers like the NHS, and the knock-on effect of ‘rationing’ by the English NHS to the most severe patient cases. As was mentioned in the video piece (link below), there are more expensive drugs being bought in bulk by the NHS that aren’t rationed so stringently by NHS England – Hep C drug treatments are capped at 10,000 per year in England, out of an estimated 215,000 people living with Hep C.
The differences a border can make are sometimes stark and unfair. The drugs aren’t rationed in Scotland, devolution has allowed Scottish decisions for Scottish ‘resident’ patients and those suffering Hep C living in Scotland do not also have to suffer the painful reality of dispassionate centralised rationing.