The purpose of this paper is to examine a six-year global campaign started by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in 2006, to seek public understanding on the importance of generic life-saving medicines in developing countries, and to challenge Norvartis pharmaceutical company to drop its patent case against India. This paper seeks to investigate the campaign’s objectives, adopted tactics and results, to answer the questions How did MSF approach its diverse publics? and Was this campaign a success?
Within the scope of Aristotle’s rhetorical theory and Freeman’s stakeholder theory, this paper aims to draw conclusions to the above questions and set forth recommendations to be considered for MSF’s later, related campaigns.
India has been known as the main supplier of essential medicines for developing countries, for it produces generic medicines, which are inexpensive in price, but still maintain high quality standards, and exports to all over the world. 67% of the medicines exported are purchased by the non-governmental organization (NGO), such as MSF or UNICEF, to treat the needing poor, or by the health programs in many developing countries (WHO, 2004). For HIV medicines, India is among the few countries in the world that are capable of making new medicines as generics (Médecins Sans Frontières, 2007). Therefore, many AIDS programs, including those of MSF, use India as the primary source for medical products.
The reason India became the key producer of cheap medicines is until 2005, India did not grant patents for pharmaceutical companies, allowing generic manufacturers to produce more affordable medicines which are patented elsewhere. The situation changed in 2005, when India joined World Trade Organization. Due to the member obligations, India started granting patents for medicines. However, it only grants patents for products that can “show an improved therapeutic effect over existing ones deserve patents,” (Médecins Sans Frontières, 2012). One of its rejections for patent was to Novartis’ leukemia drug, known as Glivec, because it was based on an existing compound.
Dismay with that decision, Novartis took the Indian government to court. This company not only challenged the rejection of its patent, but also a part of India’s law, Section 3(d), on which the decision was based. While MSF is generally impartial to both parties, it found that if section 3(d) was overturned, it would mean an elevation in patenting in India, and less affordable medicines produced. As a result, in December 2006, MSF launched “Drop the case” campaign. This campaign continued for the next six years, until April 2013, the Supreme Court of India issued a verdict that upholds the Indian Patent Law and rejects Novartis’ appeal (Médecins Sans Frontières, 2012).
The objectives of this campaign are: (1) to increase public awareness of the role of generic life-saving medicines in developing countries, (2) to increase public...