People-power helped Labour adopt policies to tackle big pharma’s grip over health

People-power helped Labour adopt policies to tackle big pharma’s grip over health

By: Radhika Patel
Date: 25 September 2019
Campaigns: Pharma

Over the past two years we’ve been campaigning with Just Treatment, their incredible patient activists and STOPAIDS for a world in which medicines are affordable and accessible for all. A world where corporate profits don’t come first but where people’s right to health does.

I have some great news!

The Labour Party announced a range of policies to tackle this broken system in which pharma giants gain while patients lose out. And many of their policies are ones that we’ve been campaigning for. This includes putting conditions on medicines developed through public funding to make sure they’re affordable for all and using existing legal rights to access lower priced medicines. As well as more transformative measures like investing in a public manufacturer to produce generic medicines at cheaper prices.

This is a massive step in the right direction for people here and around the world and we hope that other political parties will follow suit. When pharmaceutical companies hike up the prices of medicines for shareholder profit, millions suffer.

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge how this level of change has happened. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken people-power and resources to get the attention of politicians in Labour and other parties. 

Many supporters have been campaigning alongside us by taking action online and helping to spread the word locally. So a massive thank you everyone who took an action online, shared a post, spread the word with friends and family! This is a victory for us all.

Here are some of my highlights of this campaign. This win is a testament to the patient activists at the forefront of these campaigns and people around the world who have supported it along the way. 

In 2017

We discovered that in 2016 the NHS was forced to spend more than £1 billion on drugs that were researched and developed with UK public funding. Thousands of supporters signed a petition calling on the government to attach conditions to all publicly-funded medicines to ensure that drugs produced from public money are affordable and accessible for patients everywhere.

Later in the year many of you helped support our speaker tour in 11 cities around the UK where we were joined by a patient activist, Sibongile Tshabalala from South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign to talk about the problems around high-priced medicines.

In 2018

We stood in solidarity with patients in Colombia after it was revealed that pharma giant, Novartis used bullying tactics to stop the Colombian government from using a legal right to make a Leukemia medicine affordable for their citizens. Globally 15,000 people took action to stop pharma bully tactics. And a few of us stood outside the Novartis office in the UK to deliver our message with the backing of thousands of people.

Our report People’s Prescription came up with the alternatives we need for a fairer health system. Thousands of supporters emailed their MP asking them to write to their party leadership about the steps they could take to create a more just health system, prioritising public needs not corporate greed. Many of the proposals outlined in the report have been taken up by the Labour party.

In 2019

We hosted a cross-party workshop for MPs and their staff to talk about our proposals, answer tricky questions and get them interested in alternatives to the current pharmaceutical model.

And finally, when the UK tried to block a transparency resolution which would help make medicines more affordable everywhere, we were part of a global mobilisation to put pressure on ministers to support access to medicines for all.
All our campaigns tackle inequality in a broken system for a fairer world where systemic, real change is a possibility. From fighting a toxic trade deal with Trump which would rip apart our NHS and destroy our environmental and food protections to pushing back against the hostile environment policy toward migrants, it’s support from people like you that make change happen.