British pharmacists are boycotting Israeli-based generics manufacturer TEVA over the ongoing siege of Gaza and the illegal occupation of Palestine.
Ghulam Esposito Haydar, a regular contributor to 5Pillarz and a key member of the boycott campaign said that hundreds of pharmacy contractors across the country were no longer accepting products from TEVA, which has a presence in around 60 countries. The group hopes it will pressure both the British government as well as the Israeli regime to change its policy towards the Palestinian people.
The following Press Release was issued by the group behind the campaign:
“The #BoycottTEVA Campaign is an industry initiative for ethical buying of generic drugs within the UK. It is prudent to declare that patients’ safety is at the foremost interests in this campaign and boycotts will only be affected with patient consent and alternative medication continuity. The campaign is not a politically or religiously motivated but rather based on ethics of trading with an entity affiliated to a country with an active apartheid system in place. The boycott has only been initiated after lengthy deliberations and consultations on the impact of the boycott on patients and the sector in general. Measures are in place to ensure non-disruption of essential and non-essential medications in areas where the boycott is being initiated.
The growing concern regarding the situation of the Palestinian people enforced onto them by the Israeli regime both in Gaza and the West Bank is becoming even more distressing. Israel continues to enrich itself through the occupation policies of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, through policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing that continue to oppress the Palestinian people, through land confiscation, military violence and the illegal siege of the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian people are treated as second class citizens in their own land. The siege that currently envelopes the Gaza strip collectively punishes an entire refugee population for the alleged crimes of a few. The access of basic energy supplies, food and medicine are heavily restricted. Every so often, tensions flare up in this region and Israel indiscriminately kills many civilians mainly consisting of innocent women and children.
As players in the pharmacy industry, we have the ability to put some measure of pressure to stop this from continuing through the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions) Movement.
TEVA pharmaceutical products are a big part of pharmaceutical industry. TEVA is the world’s leading generic drug maker, with a range of more than 1,000 pharmaceutical lines with a presence in around 60 countries. The company currently employ approximately 45,000 people around the world and reached $20.3 billion in net revenues in 2013. TEVA supply more packs of medicine to the NHS each year than anyone else – that’s around 15% of total packs of medicine in the UK. Millions of patients use their medicines. They estimate that, on average, every second of every day, over 250 tablets or capsules supplied by them are taken by patients all around the UK.
The Paris Protocol, which regulates the financial relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is a significant part of the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Protocol placed Israel and the future Palestinian state under the same taxation envelope. In general, this means that Palestinians continue to depend on Israeli policies, customs laws, and services for the import and export of goods. Moreover, the Israeli Ministry of Health insisted that the import of drugs to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be allowed only for drugs that are registered in Israel. This decision implied that the neighbouring Arab market (with minor exceptions) would be denied to the Palestinian population and pharmaceutical industry. The Palestinian market is thus unable to maintain import or export relations with its closest and most natural markets. Other important pharmaceutical products that have been denied access are the cheap generic drugs manufactured largely in India, China, and the former USSR states. This exclusion stems from the fact that the drugs registered in Israel are mainly imported from the EU, North America and Australia.
As in other cases, economic interests are often disguised as ‘security reasons’. This can be demonstrated in the Palestinian industry’s inability to send drugs in bulk (usually to large pharmacy chains in Europe and North America) via the close-by Ben Gurion Airport. Hence, the goods are shipped through Jordan with a heavy levy of added costs. Uniquely in the case of pharmaceuticals, ‘quality reasons’ are sometimes used in conjunction with economic and political justifications. One such case is the refusal to allow Palestinian pharmaceuticals into occupied East Jerusalem medical institutions – hospitals and pharmacies – and even vaccines given at Palestinian-run schools. At other times, political and economic reasons are intertwined in the humiliation of an occupied people. This is seen in the demand of Palestinian representatives of large multinational companies to request a ‘non-objection’ letter from their Israeli colleagues in order to receive an import license from the Israeli Ministry of Health. This demand must be met by authorized Palestinian representatives even in the absence of such requirement from their Israeli counterparts.
Due to the above mentioned restrictions by the Israeli regime, Israeli and multinational companies enjoy the aforementioned situation in several ways. From the four largest, originally-Israeli companies (Teva, Perrigo Israel – formerly Agis, Taro and Dexcel Pharma), to smaller companies (such as Trima), all Israeli companies enjoy easy access to the Palestinian market, free of customs and checkpoint disturbances (e.g. change of trucks at cargo checkpoints). The Israeli manufacturers and agents do not have to amend any of their products in order to sell them in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As a result, Israeli and multinational companies can sell drugs that are not labelled in Arabic to an Arabic speaking population.
Is boycotting effective?
TEVA is one of Israel’s main contributors to its economy which considerably to the Israeli Defense Force. TEVA paid the state of Israel $565M last year in taxes accrued from 2005. The Israeli Defense Force expenditure accounted for 5.5% of Israel’s GDP which is about $16.5 Million.
Since we launched the campaign to #BoycottTEVA on 18th July 2014 approximately 300 pharmacies nationwide have joined the boycott. We are anticipating many more to follow suit from the snippets of news that are trickling in.
It is inevitable that some pharmacies may still stock certain lines of TEVA products out of necessity due to one or more reasons such as a lack of alternative or patient preference. We aim for this to be absolutely minimal via education and recommendation of alternatives.
We hope to put a multilayered campaign together highlighting this ethical dilemma to:
2) Pharmacists & Pharmacies
3) Wholesale distributors who supply pharmacies
4) Specialty Pharmaceutical Distributors who are also known as specialty wholesalers
5) Clinical Commission Group (CCG) medicines management agencies (decide on prescribing formulary/budgets)
6) The Pharmacy Defense Association (PDA) which campaign on the behalf of Pharmacist
7) The Local Pharmaceutical Commission (LPC) who bid for pharmaceutical services and interests on behalf of pharmacists.
8) The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) which is the regulatory authority for Pharmacists.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is expanding and intensifying throughout the world, and continues to have an impact on the image of a country, Israel, which despite the occupation of Palestine and the policies of apartheid still refers to itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East”.
The objective of this campaign is to put pressure on both our government as well as the Israeli regime to change its policy towards the Palestinian people. We hope that application of pressure by means of boycott will help send a message to our cabinet that the people of the United Kingdom will no longer tolerate atrocities and crimes against humanity being committed against the Palestinian population.”
Murtaza Master, owner of the Masters group of pharmacies in the West Midlands, has written to his suppliers to request his six pharmacies were no longer supplied with TEVA products. Mr Master’s letter said the chain would “endeavour to phase out Teva purchases over the next 12 months”.
Nadim Tahir, manager of online pharmacy iPharm UK, has said that he had first heard about the campaign via social media. “It’s not about religion, it’s about humanity,” said Mr Tahir. “We’re not ordering anything from Teva and we’re talking to patients and explaining why this boycott is taking place.”
Amir Riaz, owner of online pharmacy i-Dispense, described the cost of boycotting TEVA as “marginal”. He said: “I had a meeting with the partners and we concluded that it wouldn’t harm the business or patients – that’s when we decided to avoid TEVA.”
Asad Khan, manager of Elaj pharmacy in Leeds, told C+D said that his boycott had been prompted by requests from patients for an alternative to TEVA’s generics. He added: “After what has been taking place in the Middle East, people are more aware about where their brands are coming from. I think pharmacists are taking it upon themselves.”
Shaheed Fazal, director of the Dispharma pharmacy chain in the West Midlands, said the boycott was an “ethical stand” that he hoped would bring about a “sustainable solution to the conflict”.
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