After The Guardian reported that Owen Smith was never a board member of one of the world’s biggest biotech companies, Amgen, the Labour leadership hopeful scrambled to change an item on his CV which had stated the opposite:
a director and member of the UK and Ireland board of Amgen
Smith did indeed work at Amgen, but as the American firm itself told The Guardian:
Owen Smith’s position at Amgen did not give him any involvement or influence on the topics raised here – he was an employee in the UK for 18 months and was not an officer of the company or board member.
Smith’s team responded by insisting that ‘board member’ did accurately reflect his work at the US giant:
[Smith] was on the most senior director level in the UK, but they are only allowed to have one – in company terms – board and that is the USA, but it is a shorthand for what he did there.
But within a few hours of the revelation being made public, Smith had changed the item on his website:
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a director and member of the UK and Ireland team of Amgen
If Smith’s description of himself as a member of the “board” was legitimate, some may ask why he would change his website after being challenged on its validity? And if it was illegitimate, a more pressing question for Labour supporters follows: why would Smith want to exaggerate his position at a company that makes over $22bn a year from other people’s misfortune? Rather than being fully reinvested in providing decent conditions for employees and healthcare for all, the money is lining the pockets of distant shareholders.
Expensive cancer drugs, such as Blincyto, patented by Amgen and other multinational pharmaceutical companies are what makes health insurance so expensive in places like the US.
While Smith was working as PR chief for the firm, Amgen took the profiteering one step further. The giant was investigated for increasing the chances of cancer patients dying through illegal promotion of the drug Aranesp. The company was ultimately fined $762m for “pursuing profits at the risk of patient safety”.
Before Amgen, Smith worked as a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and argued patients should have greater “choice” in the NHS. In an interview, he also said private involvement in the NHS is “fine”:
Where they can bring good ideas, where they can bring valuable services that the NHS is not able to deliver, and where they can work alongside but subservient to the NHS and without diminishing in any respect the public service ethos of the NHS, then I think that’s fine.
Smith claims Nye Bevan, the Labour Health Minister when the NHS was founded, is his hero. But his previous jobs working for companies that profit from medicine certainly won’t chime with that for Labour members. And neither would making exaggerated claims which don’t stack up.
Read our other articles on the Labour leadership election.
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