Letter to Amazon CEO Addressed to an “Insuperable Control Freak”

Amazon’s social responsibility is horrendous given its market dominance, and its CEO is the world’s richest person while many Amazon employees struggle with low pay and terrible working conditions. Amazon received a tremendous public subsidy by exploiting the law to avoid sales taxes in its formative history — it should be doing much more to pay back to the public.

Dear Mr. Bezos:

You’ve come a long way from being a restless electrical engineering and computer science dual major at our alma mater, Princeton University. By heeding your own advice, your own hunches and visions, you’ve become the world’s richest person – at $141 billion and counting.

[…]

Your early clever minimizing of sales taxes gave you a big unfair advantage over brick and mortar stores that have had to pay 6, 7, 8 percent in sales taxes. Your tax-lawyers  and accountants are using the anarchic global tax avoidance jurisdictions to drive your company’s tax burden to zero on a $5.6 billion profit in 2017, plus receiving about $789 million from Trump’s tax giveaway law, according to The American Conservative magazine (see Daniel Kishi’s article, “Crony Capitalism Writ Large,” in the May/June 2018 edition).

[…]

Your expansion into retail stores and warehouses will further highlight the low wages and sometimes hazardous working conditions and assembly line pressures of your corporate model. Other companies are exploiting their workers—as in Walmart (which by the way pays far more income taxes than you do on a percentage basis even under its tax avoidance schemes)— but few companies are as blatant in their planning to replace with robotics the warehouse workers and truck drivers delivering goods.

[…]

So you are on top of the world, hyper-rich, arrogant, with your raucous laugh and your sudden temper, believing that neither antitrust laws, nor labor laws, nor tax laws, nor consumer, nor environmental, nor securities laws will ever catch up with the excesses of your business model.

Don’t bet on it. Relentless greed with overly concentrated power (about the only thing you seem not to be willing or able to control is Alexa whose ambitions may come back to haunt you) sooner or later, faces a statute of limitations.

Inhumane Avarice as Inherited Vision Loss Treatment to Cost $850,000

The extremely high cost means that only the wealthy will be able to afford the vision loss treatment. This is especially pernicious because *inherited* vision loss is something that those affected by the ailment were born with. It isn’t as a result of anything wrong they did themselves.

The $850,000 cost is also pernicious because the development of Luxturna benefited significantly from tax breaks and government research investments. It’s therefore yet another twisted case of public costs and privatized profits.

In December, the FDA approved a treatment from the pharmaceutical company Spark Therapeutics to treat a rare form of inherited vision loss. And January 3rd, the company put a price tag on the groundbreaking treatment. The Luxturna gene therapy will cost $850,000 — or $425,000 per eye.

Originally, the price of the treatment was estimated at $1 million. But even with the slightly lower cost, Luxturna is still one of the priciest treatments in the world.

Luxturna is the first gene therapy approved in the U.S. for an inherited disease, and patients only need to receive the treatment one time. The therapy was created to treat patients with retinal dystrophy, an inherited form of vision loss that causes the destruction of retinal cells. Luxturna works by injecting each eye with a normal copy of the gene responsible for vision loss. Retinal dystrophy affects between 1,000 and 2,000 Americans.

[…]

Medical advancements over the past decade have been amazing, and Luxturna has the potential to benefit thousands of people. But the reality is that most people probably won’t be able to afford this treatment, meaning it will only be accessible to the incredibly wealthy. And for people who can’t access health insurance, regular trips to the doctor are difficult to afford, let alone life-altering medications like Luxturna. We urge pharmaceutical companies to make groundbreaking treatments available for all people — not just the 1 percent.

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Source: Public Citizen

Sick Drug Corporation Hiding Behind a Native American Tribe to Protect Its Drug Patent

The failures of the monetary profit motive and the failures of drug patent monopolies merge to form a new absurdity from a pharmaceutical corporation: Exploiting the sovereignty of a Native American tribe. It’s for money, of course. Money, money, money, money, and money. Money for primarily a small number of rich shareholders, who will probably use the corporate profits at public expenses to buy another yacht, or some other materialistic excess. Meanwhile, the weight of suffering continues build, worsened by the wrongful capture of labor value from so many.

And why the hell is a corporation trying to invoke the Fifth Amendment right against double jeopardy? Do large corporations effectively have more legal priveleges than most people do now?

If you thought the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t possibly sink any lower in its pursuit of profits Allergan just proved you wrong. The geniuses at Allergan came up with the brilliant idea of turning over one of its patents on the dry-eye drug Restasis to the Mohawk tribe. The tribe will then lease the patent back to the Allergan.

The reason for this silly trick is that the Mohawk tribe, based on its sovereign status, is disputing the right of generic competitors to pursue a case before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. This board is supposed to determine whether a patent was appropriately granted in the first place.

The article may have left readers confused about the issues involved when it reported without comment a statement by Allergan’s lawyer, which claimed that they were trying to avoid double jeopardy, since the company also faces a case in federal court. The additional background here is that there is an enormous asymmetry in legal cases involving patents. The patent holder is fighting for the right to sell a drug in a monopoly market, which means monopoly profits. The challenger(s) is fighting for the right to be able to sell the drug in a competitive market, which means normal profits.

In this context, the patent holder has an enormous incentive to delay and run up the cost of litigation, which may quickly prove unprofitable to the generic competitor. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board was created to allow a quicker lower cost process to challenge invalid patents. It is also worth noting that Allergan’s revenue on this drug (more than $1.3 billion annually, according to the article) can be thought of as a tax on the American public. Without this patent, the drug would likely sell for 20 percent or less of its patent protected price.