We, the undersigned, demand from our governments policies that treat pharmaceuticals as global public goods and limit the power of pharmaceutical companies in the public interest; a policy that is geared to the health needs of the people.

Patents kill

For the production of medical knowledge as a public good

Initiated by BUKO Pharma-Kampagne and medico international (Germany), Outras Palavras (Brazil), People’s Health Movement and Society for International Development

The world has become a patient. The disease is called Covid-19 and it has shown us all the unavoidable interconnectedness of the planet. A remedy is only possible globally or not at all - this is one of the most important lessons of the pandemic that no one can escape. In the interest of humanity, the world should work together in solidarity, and within the framework of global political institutions to find a vaccine and medicines that can be produced and distributed on a need basis. 

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Because the history of every epidemic is also a history of the interplay of knowledge, power and politics. Thus, some governments are downplaying the threat posed by the virus, putting thousands of lives at risk. Others are trying to secure masks, diagnostics or vaccines under development exclusively. And the pharmaceutical industry is putting its profit interests first. At the same time, philantrocapitalist actors are expanding their influence - at the expense of democratic principles and norms. There can be no talk of global solidarity in the pandemic at this point.

In order to be able to counter Covid-19 successfully, the world's governments must create the framework for research to be carried out transparently and for medical knowledge and its end products to be considered a common good for humanity. This is the indispensable requirement for vaccines and medicines for the treatment of Covid-19 to be developed with the necessary dilligence, to be produced on a large scale, and to be distributed fairly.

But in politics it is business as usual. Even those governments that promise to defend health against profit interests refuse to consider and do away with one of the biggest global obstacles to the supply of life-saving drugs to people: The global patent system, with its ever-increasing complexities.

The patent system has focused knowledge production in health on profit maximisation and capital gains rather than on research and development and equitable distribution of life-saving medicines. 

This global injustice goes beyond the Covid 19 pandemic. It is particularly visible in places where people cannot afford essential medicines. The deadly force of this system hits everyone, but it is particularly hard on those who are marginalised by their origins and income. The zones of exclusion range from refugee camps to urban slums all over the world, and even entire countries.

Despite rapid medical progress and the availability of medicines for cure or treatment, millions of people die every year from diseases such as Tuberculosis, Diabetes or Malaria. The WHO estimates that one third of all patients worldwide do not have access to urgently needed drugs due to high prices and other structural obstacles. 

Only a fraction of medical research even addresses the health problems that affect millions of marginalized people worldwide, but who are not considered an attractive market by pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical industry mainly researches and develops drugs that promise high profits in lucrative markets. Although it is already one of the most profitable industries in the world, it still strives for ever greater profits.

In doing so, it does not meet global health needs. And the patent system ensures that even those drugs whose development is based on publicly funded research are sold at high prices. This is a serious form of privatization. It also conceals the fact that public financing of research and development would be more favourable from an economic point of view than refinancing it through patents and high prices. 

Selective changes to this system, such as life-saving price reductions for HIV drugs, only came about as a result of years of international public protest, and thus had to be forced by civil societies and countries particularly affected by the epidemic. The patent system itself also creates barriers to research progress by patenting research methods and instruments. Overcoming these unjust structures is an anticipation of a future in which services of public interest are freed from the market and profit principle and which places the human right to health as a public good at the centre of health policy.

And now there is momentum to push this fundamental policy change through. 

The Covid 19 pandemic shows the whole world that health policy is a global task that must be carried out by governments with a sense of responsibility and must be guided by a human rights principle and nothing else!

We, the undersigned*, therefore demand from our governments a policy oriented towards the health needs of the people, which treats drugs as global public goods and limits the power of pharmaceutical companies in the public interest. To this end, the de-linking of research costs and the price of medicines is essential in order to create new incentive mechanisms that promote innovation and make it accessible.

Proposals have been on the table for years. The framework for this fundamental policy change would be the immediate introduction of an international treaty to be negotiated by the World Health Organization, in which governments commit themselves to the obligatory, coordinated research and development of new essential medicines, diagnostics and vaccines.

Because this fundamental change of direction has yet to be achieved politically, the following measures must be taken immediately:

  • The establishment of a global patent pool for the simple and cost-effective handling of licensing agreements, based at the WHO.
  • The improvement of data and price transparency in research, development and sales in order to make knowledge widely available and prices fair.
  • Socially responsible licensing in all publicly funded medical research and development projects. 
  • The promotion of local and public pharmaceutical production by supporting countries of the South in building up their own production capacities, e.g. through technology transfer and start-up financing and the creation of efficient regional distribution systems for medicines and medical products.

Initial signatories


Barbara Unmüßig, Member of Executive Board, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Germany
Ben Rivers, Artist and filmmaker, Great Britain
Dagmar Enkelmann, Chairwoman Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation, Germany
Dr. Alexandre Padilha, member of parliament, Health Minister 2011-2014, Brazil
Dr. Ana Paula Soter, State Secretary in the Ministry of Health 2011-2015, Brazil
Dr. Daniel Henrys, General Coordinator Service Oecuménique d'Entraide (SOE), Haiti
Dr. Fausto Pereira dos Santos, Director Agência Nacional de Saúde, 2003-2006 and 2007-2010, Brazil
Dr. Hans-Jürgen Urban, Managing Member of the Executive Board of IG Metall, Germany
Dr. Humberto Costa, Senator, Health Minister 2003-2005, Brazil
Dr. med. Bernd Hontschik, Surgeon and publicist, Germany
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, President Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), Palestine
Eliane Cruz, National Coordinator Health, Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), Brazil
Ilija Trojanow, writer, Germany
Issam Younis, Director Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Commissioner General of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, Head of Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions (ANNHRI), Palestine
Jean Ziegler, publicist, Switzerland
Jens Martens, Managing Director Global Policy Forum, Germany
Kamel Mohanna, President Amel Association International, Lebanon
Kapila Gureja, Health Rights Supporter, India
Katrin Hartmann, journalist, Germany
Lian Gogali, Director Institut Mosintuwu, Indonesia
Milo Rau, director, Switzerland
Monsignore Pirmin Spiegel, Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of the Bischöfliches Hilfswerk MISEREOR, Germany
Pfarrerin Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, president Brot für die Welt, Germany
Prof. Dr. Albrecht Jahn, Institute of Global Health, University of Heidelberg, Germany
Prof. Dr. Alexis Benos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Prof. Dr. Arthur Chioro, University of São Paulo (Unifesp), Health Minister 2014-2015, Brazil
Prof. Dr. Holger Horz, Pedagogical Psychology, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Germany
Prof. Dr. Kayvan Bozorgmehr, Population medicine and health services research, University of Bielefeld, Germany
Prof. Dr. Lumena Furtado, University of São Paulo (Unifesp), Brazil
Prof. Dr. med. Ansgar Gerhardus, First Chairman German Society for Public Health, Germany
Prof. Dr. med. Oliver Razum, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Universität Bielefeld, Germany
Prof. Dr. med. Walter Bruchhausen, Institute for Hygiene and Public Health, Universität Bonn, Germany
Prof. Dr. Michael Krawinkel, Universität Giessen, Germany
Prof. Dr. Sabine Hark, Center for Interdisciplinary Women's and Gender Studies (ZIFG), Technische Universität Berlin, Germany
Prof. Dr. Stephan Lessenich, Institute of Sociology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany
Prof. Dr. Uli Brandt, International Politics, Universität Wien, Austria
Prof. Rita Giacaman, Research and Program Coordinator, Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit, West Bank, Palestine
Ran Goldstein, Managing Director Physicians for Human Rights–Israel
Rolf Rosenbrock, Chairman Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband, Germany
Ruchama Marton, Founder Physicians for Human Rights–Israel
Rosalinda C. Tablang, Director Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS), Philippines
Sonny Africa, Director IBON Foundation, Philippines
Vittorio Agnoletto, MD, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy
Wolfgang Lemb, Managing Member of the Executive Board of IG Metall, Germany


Afghan Human Rights and Democracy Organisation (AHRDO), Afghanistan
Asociación Coordinadora Comunitaria de Servicios para la Salud (ACCSS), Guatemala
Asociación de Promotores Comunales Salvadoreños (APROCSAL), El Salvador
Associação Brasileira de Saúde Coletiva (Abrasco), Brazil
Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinar de AIDS (ABIA), Brazil
Attac Deutschland, Germany
Centre for Research and Education in Public Health, Health Policy and Primary Health Care, Greece
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), Zimbabwe
Conselho Nacional de Saúde (CNS), Brazil
Dawar for Arts and Development, Egypt
Edhi Foundation, Pakistan
El Nadim Center against violence and torture, Egypt
Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial (ECAP), Guatemala
Foro Nacional de Salud (FNS), El Salvador
Gauteng Community Health Care Forum, South Africa
Gesellschaft für Tropenpädiatrie & Internationale Kindergesundheit (GTP) e.V., Germany
Gonoshathya Kendra (GK), Bangladesh
Grupo de Trabalho em Propriedade Intelectual, Brazil
HAUKARI – Association for International Cooperation e.V., Germany
Health Action International (HAI)
Health and Nutrition Development Society (HANDS), Pakistan
Health GAP International
Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), Pakistan
IDEP Foundation, Indonesia
IFARMA Foundation, Colombia
Kamukunji Paralegal Trust (KAPLET), Kenya
Khanya College, South Africa
Kurdish Red Crescent, North East Syria
Medicina Democratica, Movimento di lotta per la salute, Italy
MISEREOR – the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation
Movimento dos Sem Terra (MST), Brazil
Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto (MTST), Brazil
National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), Bangladesh
National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Pakistan
Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), Sierra Leone
Nomadic Assistance for Peace and Development (NAPAD), Somalia
Ecology Association "Ekoloji Derneği", South East Turkey
Physicians for Human Rights–Israel
People's Health Movement (PHM), Kenya
Popol Na, Nicaragua
Salud por Derecho, Spain
Sinani, South Africa
Verein Demokratischer Ärztinnen und Ärzte (VDÄÄ), Germany
Verein demokratischer Pharmazeutinnen und Pharmazeuten, Germany
Viva Salud, Belgium
World Vision Deutschland e.V., Germany

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