Written by: Mark Chapman

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Mark Chapman

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Andy Halsall

Written by: Adrian Short

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Andy Halsall

Written by: Andy Halsall

George Walkden : Clinical trials and tribulations: a role for Europe

It’s hard to imagine a better fairy-tale villain than a big pharma company. There’s something undeniably sinister about these vast, faceless titans with their unfathomable methods and international reach; so much so that it’s sometimes an effort to remember that, actually, they’re the ones who develop and mass-produce the drugs we use to stay alive. For that we owe them thanks – but let’s not get sentimental about it. These companies are still companies, and they have their own agendas and priorities, which often end up in conflict with those of the average mortal.

One instance of this conflict is the pharma companies’ vice-like grip, via patents, on the production of newly-developed drugs. This can put heavy financial pressure on health services, particularly in developing countries. Another conflict, which is the focus of this article, involves the publication of clinical trial data. Clinical trials are carried out on a massive scale as part of the process of bringing a new drug onto the market: the trials are meant to determine whether the drug is effective and safe, and whether patients would benefit from being prescribed it.

The problem, as Ben Goldacre clearly demonstrates in his excellent book Bad Pharma, is that the decision whether or not to publish the results of a given trial is determined by factors that are anything but scientific. Most worryingly, there is a strong bias towards publishing only positive results: if a trial’s results are negative, or inconclusive, there is a much higher likelihood that they will be stuffed into someone’s desk drawer and never see the light of day. This isn’t a problem that’s unique to industry-sponsored studies, but it certainly seems to be much worse there: a 2006 review found that 78% of industry-sponsored studies showed positive results for the drug in question, while only 48% of independently-funded studies came up with a favourable outcome. Hardly surprising given that pharma companies stand to gain from presenting their drug in the best possible light, but deeply worrying.

Liam Dolman : Day two of the Pirate Parties International Conference

So after a long day of bureaucracy, voting the PPI conference is finally over.  

For the formal GA, it seemed that 22 parties were present in the room, or as remote delegates (growing to 23 later - but we'll come to that).  That list included the Pirate Parties of Australia, Belarus, Belgium,  Brazil, Catalonia, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Khazakstan, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and United Kingdom. So whilst its a diverse group PPI continues to be overrepresented from the Parties in and around Europe.

The morning was occupied by discussions and votes intended to establish if the current General Assembly was legitimate and decide whether  it was announced within the correct time frame. Ultimately those present accepted Gregory Engles' explanations and his apology, not everyone was happy with the result, but it it allowed the conference to move on.

A bright point was two new parties, Norway and Costa Rica applying to become Ordinary Members, with an additional party applying for membership after the deadline. The room voted to admit the Pirate Party of Norway into PPI and deferred the applications of the Second Pirate Party of Greece and the Pirate Party of Costa Rica to the next Assembly because there was a feeling that the information provided was insufficient. So, halfway through the conference, the PPI family was a little larger than it had been at the beginning.

The meeting then proceeded to the Board reports to the membership. Gregory Engles, PPI Board Co-Chair, failed to produce a written report once again but gave a verbal report detailing a failed application to WIPO, the abandonment of an international press platform due to communication difficulties and the pinning of blame of PPIs financial situation onto the previous treasurer, but more on that later. Fortunately, It was not all doom and gloom as there has been some successes such as the think twice conference and Gregory committing himself to produce an official report in the coming weeks. A little preparation and planning would have been appreciated, it usually prevents... problems.

Liam Dolman : Day One of the Pirate Parties International Conference

Its the end of the first day of the Pirate Parties International Conference, so its natural to ask "what has been accomplished? " At the opening of the first day, Pirates took an 'open space' approach to let them get some work done, they put together an agenda for the day's groups and split out into groups based on what they were interested in and got on with it. The groups covered everything from methods in dealing with pro-Copyright Lobbying and the future of PPI through to crypto-parties and the future of Europe wide Pirate policy making.

Sadly for those watching the live stream the action was sparse as the conference split off into groups. Twitter updates varied between people asking delegates to wave as they wandered past, to posts criticising the PPI.

At the end of the day, a lot of ideas were communicated back to the whole conference and those watching - I won't cover all of it here (no doubt we will see something from the PPI or the groups in due course).

The first group that reported back had looked at how to best fight against copyright industry lobbyists. This is about as core as it gets in terms of Pirate issues!

They came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to campaign against the misconceptions the copyright industry uses to dupe policymakers and the public. The gist was that whilst the lobbyists and their patrons were very rich, we aren't and way to combat the misconceptions was to use the truth: To run a face to face campaigns, to talk to people and disprove these misconceptions. From our end, this looks like a great idea. This seems like a good idea - it would be fantastic to see some collected information about the way lobbyists are presenting the argument globally.

Andy Halsall : Why it's good to be right - Making an impact.

We often talk about the progress the party is making and the things we want to change, but beyond some of our larger national successes we don't say as much as we could about when we do make an impact.  Its time to change that, so:

It is starting to feel like we are making real progress on some of our core issues - maybe not as much or as quickly as we might wish, but enough to show that we can be a real force for change, now!

In Manchester, we have been facing off with the Labour Party in elections for the best part of 4 years on a raft of local issues, including digital. It's significant, then, that this week Manchester Labour have decided that they finally want to follow our lead and push for 'Better Broadband' in the run up to the local elections!  Granted, they have been a bit slow off the mark and in the past have been dismissive of such issues, but we have shown them the way and they are now at least talking about it... and it is an important issue.

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