Of Medicines and Markets: Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Free Trade Era (Stanford Studies in Human Rights)
Angelina Snodgrass Godoy
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Central American countries have long defined health as a human right. But in recent years regional trade agreements have ushered in aggressive intellectual property reforms, undermining this conception. Questions of IP and health provisions are pivotal to both human rights advocacy and “free” trade policy, and as this book chronicles, complex political battles have developed across the region.
Looking at events in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala, Angelina Godoy argues that human rights advocates need to approach intellectual property law as more than simply a roster of regulations. IP represents the cutting edge of a global tendency to value all things in market terms: Life forms—from plants to human genetic sequences—are rendered commodities, and substances necessary to sustain life—medicines—are restricted to insure corporate profits. If we argue only over the terms of IP protection without confronting the underlying logic governing our trade agreements, then human rights advocates will lose even when they win.
interventions should focus their energies reverberate through contemporary discussions. While intellectual property critics express concerns over IP’s impact on the region’s poorest residents, many progressive health activists continue to see access to medicines—especially to the most recently developed medicines, rather than basic antidiarrheals and others that have been off-patent for many years—as important, but dangerously linked to the prevailing assumption that technological fixes can be
threshold of legitimacy below which rights claims take on an excessively individualistic character given the near total lack of faith in public institutions? I return to this question after a description of the Guatemalan cases in the following section. Documenting the Cases To understand the trend of health rights litigation in Guatemala, I constructed a database of health rights cases since 2000, using several sources of information. First, in interviews with key actors including patients,
promotion of social and economic, as well as political, rights. Yet when reprisals against them were reframed in civil rights terms more palatable to Northern sponsors, the killings of advocates of literacy or public health or clean water were described in ways that focused on the killings, not on their campaigns for literacy, or public health, or clean water. In the language of human rights, the state was thus recast as the entity that deprived citizens of their rights rather than the entity
rights-based discourses? Who decides which ones triumph and which founder? More recent research on the framing of rights campaigns offers some clues in this regard. Carpenter (2007), for example, insists on the importance of not only understanding which campaigns win but also of looking for the “dogs that don’t bark”—the potential campaigns that were never launched. Her research shows that certain nodes in the network function as “gatekeepers” and that their decisions about which issues get taken
Kennedy, David. 2004. The dark sides of virtue: Reassessing international humanitarianism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Klug, Heinz. 2008. Law, politics, and access to essential medicines in developing countries. Politics and Society 36 (2): 207–246. Kroeger, A., H. Ochoa, B. Arana, A. Diaz, N. Rizzo, and W. Flores. 2001. Inadequate drug advice in the pharmacies of Guatemala and Mexico: The scale of the problem and explanatory factors. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology 95