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The Pharmaceutical Industry and Access to Medicines in India

posted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by Hans Lofgren
Pharmaceutical policy in India as elsewhere is shaped by conflicting economic and social interests and opposing values and priorities. Tensions can be understood as revolving around the contradiction between use value and exchange value in the production of medicinal drugs as commodities, as per Marx’s original analysis. The use value of medicines – if safe and efficacious, of good quality, and prescribed and consumed appropriately – is the prevention, cure or alleviation of ill-health and disease. Health policy is – or should be – aimed at optimising the use value of medicines. For this purpose government agencies administer regulatory oversight of the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of medicines. Drugs made available to patients are expected to meet adequate safety, quality and efficacy standards, but regulation to ensure such standards is subject to controversy in most countries. This is a domain where definition and interpretation of scientific-technological principles and criteria is infused by partiality and bias grounded in social and material interests, as evidenced by recurrent debates about industry ‘capture’ of regulatory agencies, including the world’s most regulator, the US Food and Drug Administration (Angell 2005; Law 2006). In India, a Parliamentary Committee Report in 2012 depicted the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) as dysfunctional and influenced inappropriately by the exchange value perspective of manufacturers (Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Welfare 2012). The clash between use and exchange value perspectives is starkly illustrated by cases of products known to cause more harm than good, particularly common in poorly regulated markets such as India’s, as shown by Srinivasan & Phadke.


Title of book

The politics of the pharmaceutical industry and access to medicines : world pharmacy and India

Chapter number



1 - 23


Social Science Press

Place of publication

New Delhi, India





Publication classification

B1 Book chapter; B Book chapter

Copyright notice

2013, Socla Science Press




H Lofgren