Big Pharma in Africa: Weighing corporate citizenship and the bottom line

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In the early 2000s, pharmaceutical companies were high on activists’ hit lists, prompted by Big Pharma’s ill-advised attempt to sue the South African government for patent infringement on HIV drugs; an attempt to deal with the country’s epidemic by allowing cheaper, generic copies to be sold.

Today, the discourse seems merrier. Charities and NGOs sit down with the same companies, discussing how best to confront public health challenges in the developing world. The talk is of partnerships and ‘win-wins’. 0It isn’t all idle chatter. Drug donations, reinvestment of profits in developing countries and a more flexible approach to intellectual property have all signalled a more collaborative approach from industry with the likes of GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Johnson and Johnson and Merck all performing well in the 2012 Access to Medicine Initiative.

But while talk of a new era of friendship is appealing (not least to the companies), there are still unresolved debates about the role that companies play in shaping the public health agenda in developing countries. Even the most seemingly charitable acts have come under scrutiny.

Source: African Arguments (link opens in a new window)

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Health Care
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health care, public health