On the 26th of February activists from the Students Stop AIDS Campaign from around the UK gathered outside the national research facility for Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company. Painted as zombies and clad in black we marched to their gates demanding that Novartis stop their attempt to effectively legalise murder. Chants of “SHAME ON YOU” and “NOVARTIS, BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS” echoed throughout the surrounding neighbourhood – part of a louder cry from activists around the world refusing to accept that the actions of greedy co-operations can put thousands of lives at risk.
Novartis are pushing to change India’s patent laws regarding essential medicines which would ultimately result in shockingly expensive prices for vital drugs for those living conditions like cancer, TB and of course HIV. India currently supplies 80% of HIV treatment used in the developing world today and this is almost entirely down to their wonderful patent laws which restrict monopolies on medicines and therefore bringing drug prices down.
India does not allow new patents for the same drug that has been created in a different form, for example a liquid or soluble form.
Novartis are currently appealing to the Indian Supreme Court in order to gain a new patent for their pre-existent cancer drug but in a different form. If Novartis wins this case it will be easy for other drug companies to do the same. From then on we are on a slippery slope to expensive drugs which people in the developing just can’t afford.
As one of the students participating in this action against Novartis, I can speak for all of the youth activists there when I say that we are absolutely horrified at the prospect of drug prices being driven up. The sombre atmosphere of the morbid stunt reflected the serious nature of the message we, and countless others globally are trying to send; “Novartis, Stop Trying to Legalise Murder”.
by Ella Jeffreys, Stop AIDS Activist – SOAS University