BRIGHTON, England (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged on Tuesday to reform the pharmaceutical market to force drug companies to produce generic versions of new medicines and give the state a greater role in research and production.
Corbyn announced the policy in his address to Labour’s annual conference, part of a wave of planned reforms the party hopes will help them win an early election, which is expected to be called in the coming months.
“We will redesign the system to serve public health – not private wealth – using compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines,” Corbyn said in his speech
“We’ll tell the drugs companies that if they want public research funding then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all,” he added.
Labour would also create a new publicly owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to the National Health Service, he said.
A separate Labour briefing document said the party expected its reforms to be opposed by the industry, and acknowledged the changes were complex and risky.
But it said the potential savings from the shift away from the current monopolistic model of research and development outweighed any associated costs, and that an overall R&D spending increase would dissuade manufacturers from pulling out of the UK market.
“Making the case for an expanded role of the state does not negate the participation of the private sector, but rather redefines its role,” the document said.
“By changing the incentives to innovate, by setting conditions on public investment and increasing the role of the public sector in overseeing the production of medicines, we can maximize the public value of private-sector contributions.”
Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison