Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 40 (2):220-233 (2012)

J. Y. Lee
Bristol University
Although access to medicines is a vital feature of the right to the highest attainable standard of health (“right to health”), almost two billion people lack access to essential medicines, leading to immense avoidable suffering. While the human rights responsibility to provide access to medicines lies mainly with States, pharmaceutical companies also have human rights responsibilities in relation to access to medicines. This article provides an introduction to these responsibilities. It briefly outlines the new UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and places the human rights responsibilities of pharmaceutical companies in this context. The authors draw from the work of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health, in particular the Human Rights Guidelines for Pharmaceutical Companies in Relation to Access to Medicines that he presented to the UN General Assembly in 2008, and his UN report on GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). While the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are general human rights standards applicable to all business entities, the Human Rights Guidelines for Pharmaceutical Companies consider the specific human rights responsibilities of one sector (pharmaceutical companies) in relation to one area of activity (access to medicines). The article signals the human rights responsibilities of all pharmaceutical companies, with particular attention to patent-holding pharmaceutical companies. Adopting a right-to-health “lens,” the article discusses GSK and accountability. The authors argue that human rights should shape pharmaceutical companies' policies, and provide standards in relation to which pharmaceutical companies could, and should, be held accountable. They conclude that it is now crucial to devise independent, accessible, transparent, and effective mechanisms to monitor pharmaceutical companies and hold them publicly accountable for their human rights responsibilities
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2012.00660.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,339
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Human Right to Health: A Defense.Nicole Hassoun - 2020 - Journal of Social Philosophy 51 (2):158-179.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Are Pharmaceutical Patents Protected by Human Rights?Joseph Millum - 2008 - Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (11):e25-e25.
Corporate Responsibilities for Access to Medicines.Klaus M. Leisinger - 2009 - Journal of Business Ethics 85 (S1):3 - 23.


Added to PP index

Total views
31 ( #351,255 of 2,448,758 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #445,251 of 2,448,758 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes