Public funding but private profits – how to fight the pharmaceutical industry on your campus

Public funding but private profits – how to fight the pharmaceutical industry on your campus


By: Kirsty Haigh
Date: 22 February 2018
Campaigns: Pharma

untitled_1_of_17Forbes – the American business magazine  – showed that the Pharmaceutical industry was the world’s most profitable industry in 2016, with a massive 30% profit for pharmaceutical companies selling generic medicines during that year.

The world’s most profitable industry – while over 2 billion people worldwide lack access to essential medicine. Every time these people decide they want a bigger paycheck or a bigger bonus medicines become unaffordable for thousands of people across the globe.

This scandal is made even worse by the fact that so much pharmaceutical research is, at least partially, publicly funded.  Research is produced using public funding then privatised and sold back to the public making massive profits for the private companies.

One of the places where lots of this publicly funded research is carried it is on university campuses. Due to this, universities are essential drivers in pharmaceutical innovation – it’s on university campuses where new drugs are created and where it is agreed how the research is sold off. Therefore, organising on university campuses is very important in the fight for affordable medicine and creating medication for neglected diseases.

What can you do at your university?

Universities can take steps to help advance global health through research, licensing and education. The current government sees universities as key to leading the expansion of research and development capacity so that they may “enjoy the commercial fruits of their research”.  But researching, developing and creating medication should be about saving lives not making profit.

With the help of Youth Stop Aids and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) we’ve made this campaign pack to help you affect change on your campus. The pack is filled with everything you need to know and resources to get you started: draft lecture shout-outs, template student union motions, how to do make a Freedom of Information request and more.

One of the main things universities can do – which is what UAEM have been campaigning for – is to sign up to a set of principles which all their research will meet. These Global Access Policies are part of the Global Access Licensing Framework and would ensure that the research produced is research into drugs to treat neglected diseases and that the drugs will be accessible to those who need it most. Every university-developed technology that has shown potential to become a medication or vaccine should be licensed with a concrete and transparent strategy to make affordable versions available on a global basis. Creating such licenses is a complex process. Therefore, each license will be unique and slightly different from the next. However, to make this easier, in the pack you can find 6 points which all licenses should adhere to.

Universities should be pushing for research into diseases that are neglected by the pharmaceutical industry for not being profitable enough and making sure their life-saving research leads to drugs that are accessible and affordable across the globe.

Currently, universities don’t care that their research isn’t being used to ensure people can access drugs that can save lives and cure people of the illnesses they face – we need to let them know that’s not good enough. There’s loads that can be done on campuses and loads that we, Youth Stop Aids and Universities Allied for Essential Medicine can do to help. So, have a read through the pack, get planning, get excited and lets start taking back the power from big pharma.

Read more in our universities’ campaign pack: