The recent arrival of Direct-Acting Antivirals (DAAs) against Hepatitis C in Europe has opened up an unprecedented debate about the price of medicines. It has highlighted a much greater systemic problem which goes beyond the cost of DAAs. It has demonstrated that, even in developed countries, health systems do not have the capacity to sustain the level of prices demanded by the pharmaceutical industry for new medicines to treat life threatening diseases. In several such countries, access to hepatitis C treatments has become politicized, and there has been social mobilization denouncing the rationing of such medicines, which is seen as a threat to the promise of access through national social security systems. It is important to note that NGOs and patient groups have challenged not only the cost of such medicines and the way in which this was negotiated. Instead, they have also questioned the monopolies established by patents, and the way in which these patents are granted. They have called on governments to remove patent protection and to buy generic versions of medicines, therefore removing the need for rationing. A political questioning of the economy of pharmaceutical products has emerged, problematizing the patent system and the financing of research and development in a way previously seen only in the Global South. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether social demand for access to medicines is going to accommodate a sustained critique of the system that generates the prices of medicines. In the current context of pharmaceuticalization of health and public health policies, those groups engaged in social mobilization have struggled to distance themselves from the agenda of pharmaceutical companies. Eventually, the discourse around ‘access’ could eclipse the critique of the economy of pharmaceuticals, and more generally of the economy of scarcity that accompanies it.
Dr Gaëlle Krikorian has a PhD in sociology and is based at Interdisciplinary Research Institute on Social Sciences, Politics and Health (IRIS), University of Paris 13, France. Her fields of research concern social mobilizations, collective actions and public policies around the issues of access to medicine and intellectual property, and more recently the uses of DNA by the police and the justice. Her PhD focused on the way in which health issues and intellectual property are negotiated in free trade agreements and how governments develop and negotiate their position and policies as a result of such agreements, with a particular focus on agreements between the United States and developing countries, such as Morocco and Thailand. She is the author of a range of articles and books on access to medicines, knowledge and intellectual property issues, including Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property (MIT Press, 2010), co-edited with Amy Kapczynski. Before becoming an academic, she worked as an activist with Act Up, and recently was an advisor on access to knowledge and intellectual property issues for the Greens in the European Parliament during 4 years.
Date: Monday 31 July 2017
Time: 1pm to 2pm. Lunch is available from 12.45pm outside the Moot Court.
Venue: Level 2, La Trobe Law School Moot Court (Social Sciences building, Room 232), La Trobe University, Bundoora