Nationalizing drug manufacturing: A public necessity or a waste of money?

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  1. Claude Ferguson

    To assume that a monopoly (public or private) will be more responsive and forward thinking than a dynamic and competitive market is contradicted by a long list of failings, including the latest lack of preparedness for the COVID crisis, for which the playbook had already been written following the SARS pandemic – and that was written less than 10 years ago basically by the same public health managers are in charge today. As you-know-who said it so well: the only lesson from History is that mankind take no lesson from History. Our duty to the public is to manage markets to make sure that they remain or become more competitive and fair – that’s it!

  2. Joel Lexchin

    We need to get over the myth that key public services like building and running hospitals, maintaining public school buildings, supplying drinking water and running long-term care homes can be done more efficiently by the private sector. Just read the summary of an article about public-private partnership hospitals in Australia, Spain and the United Kingdom (

    “New facilities have, in general, been more expensive than they would have been if procured using traditional methods. Compared with the traditional system, new facilities are more likely to be built on time and within budget, but this seems often to be at the expense of compromises on quality. The need to minimize the risk to the parties means that it is very difficult to “future-proof” facilities in a rapidly changing world. Finally, such projects are
    extremely, and in some cases prohibitively, complex.”

    A new report ( from the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives documents what workers in P3 schools have to say about maintenance. The conclusion of the report is that “what became evident as we listened to all of the problems and frustrations with the P3 model by the employees who work in them, is the extent to which public sector workers are constantly called upon to remedy the failures of the model.”

    Hamilton Ontario signed a 10-year deal ( with Philip Utilities Management Corp. to manage its water treatment in 1994. When the contract came up for renewal in 2004 all of the private sector bids were higher than the cost of running the facilities inhouse. In the mid-1990s, the P3 was the site of the largest ever sewage spill in Lake Ontario to that date. The full cost of cleanup fell to the City of Hamilton.

    In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, death rates in private for-profit long-term care homes are much higher than in private non-profit and municipally run homes: 9% in for-profit homes, 5.25% in non-profit homes and 3.62% in municipal homes (

    The situation is no better in drug manufacturing plants run by the private sector. In 2010, the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline had to pay a fine of US $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints arising from selling 20 drugs with questionable safety that were made at a plant in Puerto Rico that for years was known to be producing contaminated products (

    Relying on the private sector to solve drug shortages is not the answer.

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