Medicines and Markets: The Role of Pharmaceuticals in Global Health Policy

Influential global health actors are working to narrow the pharmaceutical gap between high- and low-income countries

Medicines and Markets: The Role of Pharmaceuticals in Global Health Policy

By Giuliano Russo – member of the Medicines in Health Systems Thematic Working Group and Stefan Elbe – Director of the Centre for Global Health Policy, University of Sussex

Pharmaceuticals are pivotal to global health policy. Outbreaks of pandemic flu, Ebola, MERS and now Zika are intensifying international efforts to streamline pharmaceutical development. Concern about global health security threats – from the rise of anti-microbial resistance to the spectre of a bio-terrorist attack – are fanning bespoke pharmaceutical regimes for the development, manufacture and distribution of innovative medical countermeasures.

At the same time, a number of influential global health actors are working tirelessly to narrow the pharmaceutical gap between high- and low-income countries, with the aim of making many life-saving pharmaceuticals more accessible in low-income countries. They also hope to encourage the development of more innovative medicines to treat neglected diseases for which there is no underlying commercial market. These developments are underpinned by the emergence of new manufacturing capabilities in many low- and middle-income countries – with the potential to reshape the global political economy of pharmaceuticals production and consumption in the decades ahead.

On June 9th the Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical of Lisbon and the Centre for Global Health Policy at the University of Sussex will be hosting a workshop on “Pharmaceuticals and Global Health Policy. The event brings together a number of researchers analysing different dimensions of the role played by pharmaceuticals in contemporary global health policy – from medicines and medical countermeasures, through to markets and manufacturers.

Across four panels and 12 presentations, UK and international experts will present and discuss ongoing research work on Pharmaceuticals and Global Health Security, The Global Supply of Medicines; The Political Economy of Developing Local Health Technology Capacity, and; Addressing Anti-microbial resistance in Pluralistic Human and Animal Health Systems. Researchers from both the Medicines in Health Systems and the Private Sector in Health Thematic Working Groups will be presenting at the event.

The workshop aims to: (a) facilitate interdisciplinary, social science dialogue across a number of distinct research projects focusing on pharmaceuticals in global health policy; (b) enabling researchers to showcase their work in this area to cognate researchers – comparing commonalities and tensions across different areas of global health policy, and; (c) exploring the scope and avenues for possible future collaboration. Some of the overarching questions of the workshop will include:

  • What are the main drivers behind the proliferation of pharmaceutical logics and solutions in contemporary global health policy?
  • How do multi-national pharmaceutical companies balance their commercial needs with the more humanitarian imperatives of global health?
  • What role do global governance structures – from formal institutions to legal regimes and intellectual property – play in these dynamics?
  • What role do markets and manufacturers from low- and middle-income countries play in these processes?
  • What are the obstacles and resistances to approaching global health problems pharmaceutically?
  • Is the pharmaceuticalization of global health policy sustainable?

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