Switzerland - Suspicion of the pharma industry runs deep| MENAFN.COM

Thursday, 20 January 2022 10:42 GMT

Switzerland - Suspicion of the pharma industry runs deep


(MENAFN- Swissinfo)

Pandemic fears and frustrations are mounting. What if vaccine deals had been out in the open?

This content was published on December 6, 2021 - 14:00 December 6, 2021 - 14:00

Jessica covers the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to big global companies and their impact in Switzerland and abroad. She's always looking for a Swiss connection with her native San Francisco and will happily discuss why her hometown has produced some of the greatest innovations but can't seem to solve its housing crisis.

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At this time last year, all eyes were on the biopharma companies. Their vaccines were going to save us from more devastation, the endless uncertainty, and the deepening economic crisis. But here we are again, wrote the New York Times last week:“Chaos rules global response to the omicron variantExternal link”.

Some people are pointing the finger at rich countries for hoarding vaccines, some fault pharma companies for not sharing the formulas to manufacture them, and others blame people pushing back against vaccines and government restrictions.

Perhaps more troubling to many people is the secrecy. It's the behind-the-scenes deals with vaccine makers, explaining science as if it is a public relations exercise, and communicating clinical trial results with an eye on the share price. This virus is no doubt confusing, but it doesn't help that there is deep suspicion that pharma companies are jockeying for a position in the market or trying to win investors or reputational goodwill. HistoryExternal link explains some of this suspicion, and SWI swissinfo.ch readers offered their own thoughts in our debate .

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Jessica Davis Plüss How has the pandemic affected your view of the pharmaceutical industry?

To some people, pharmaceutical companies are the heroes of the pandemic. To others, they are to blame for the challenges ending the pandemic.

With all the confusion, misunderstandings and mistrust everywhere, one can't help but wonder what would happen if there was more transparency. What if governments showed their cards and biopharma companies shared how many vaccines they sold, at what price, and their conditions? Would this have built trust? Would it have helped distribute vaccines more widely, leaving us less vulnerable to variants?

The idea is gaining some backers. Last week the Swiss House of Representatives voted in favour of making the vaccine deals with pharma companies publicExternal link . While the proposal still needs to be discussed in the Senate, the Swiss pharma industry association reacted immediately, arguing it would threaten Switzerland's reputation as a trustworthy partner. One politician voting against the majority called the idea“plain stupidExternal link”. Stay tuned.

What is your view? Do you think there should be more transparency? In what areas?

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Swiss pharma reckons with its past, present and future

This content was published on Nov 15, 2021 Nov 15, 2021 This is the story of how making drugs helped turn a small, mountainous country into an industry titan, and what the pandemic means for its future.

What else caught my eye?

New responsible business law falls short of what campaigners had in mind. On Friday, the government announced the long-awaited decision on the“counter proposal” to the Responsible Business Initiative. The new law will come into forceExternal link in 2022 and requires large companies to report on environmental and social issues. As of 2023, some companies will also be expected to examine their supply chains for child labour and conflict minerals.

However, NGOs say there are so many exceptions and conditions in the law that it will be easy for companies to escape even these minimum requirements. For example, many raw material or commodity companies would be exempt because they have fewer than 500 companies despite huge risks from their activities. The law also doesn't require companies to assess supply chains beyond the first tier or where the finished product is assembled. Campaigners are now wondering if this is what Swiss voters had in mind when they cast their vote on the subject in November 2020.

Moreover, NGOs that were hoping changes at the EU level would compensate for any weaknesses in Swiss law are disappointed. Things seemed to be stalled indefinitely at the EU level. 

Glencore plans to phase out coal mines but investors are divided about how quickly. That's according to a story in the FT this week on the occasion of Glencore's investor day. The new CEO, Gary Nagle, said that the company will close its coal minesExternal link within the next 30 years. At least one activist fund said that's too long. Bluebell Capital argues that Glencore's adherence to coal mining is 'morally unacceptableExternal link and financially flawed' writes the NZZ. Some investors such as Norway's sovereign wealth fund can't invest in the company because of the coal assets. Nagle and other investors though appear to defend the view that spinning off fossil fuel assets isn't the right move.

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Swiss commodity traders control 2.7 million hectares of land worldwide

This content was published on Dec 2, 2021 Dec 2, 2021 Trading companies with a Swiss presence own over 550 plantations covering over 2.7 million hectares.

Swiss commodity traders own a lot of agriculture land around the world. According to research by NGO Public Eye, commodity traders like Olam, Raizan and COFCO, that have a major presence in Switzerland, own agriculture land equivalent to six times the arable land available in Switzerland. As commodity traders are the go-between in the supply chain, it's been easier for them to evade responsibility for environmental and human rights issues in other countries. How these companies secured so much land, and the mere fact that they own so much of it, is cause for more stringent standards on the sector, argues Public Eye.

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Articles in this story

  • How has the pandemic affected your view of the pharmaceutical industry?
  • Swiss pharma reckons with its past, present and future
  • Swiss commodity traders control 2.7 million hectares of land worldwide
  • Why Switzerland needs workers from abroad

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