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J Law Med Ethics. 2013 Spring;41(1):163-84. doi: 10.1111/jlme.12012.

Pharmaceutical knowledge governance: a human rights perspective.

Author information

  • University of Toronto.


Industry control over the production and distribution of pharmaceutical safety and efficacy data has become a serious public health and health care funding concern. Various recent scandals, several involving the use of flawed representations of scientific data in the most influential medical journals, highlight the urgency of enhancing pharmaceutical knowledge governance. This paper analyzes why this is a human rights concern and what difference a human rights analysis can make. The paper first identifies the challenges associated with the current knowledge deficit. It then discusses, based on an analysis of case law, how various human rights associated interests can be invoked to support the claim that states have an obligation to actively contribute to independent knowledge governance, for example through ensuring clinical trials transparency. The paper further discusses a conceptual use of human rights, as a methodology which requires a comprehensive analysis of the different interwoven historical, economic, cultural, and social factors that contribute to the problem. Such an analysis reveals that historically grown drug regulations have, in fact, contributed directly to industry control over pharmaceutical knowledge production. This type of finding should inform needed reforms of drug regulation. The paper ends with a recommendation for a comprehensive global response to the problem of pharmaceutical knowledge governance.

© 2013 American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Inc.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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