Prescription PricesPhoto: Chris Potter -

The total control of drug development by pharmaceutical companies is both problematic and unsustainable. Pharmaceutical companies are often more concerned about profits than public health priorities or corporate accountability.

As a result, key health priorities are neglected and people lack access to the medicine they need. Companies engage in harmful and unethical research practices, and irresponsible marketing practices.
SOMO researches the policies and practices around pharmaceutical drug development, with a particular focus on the ethics of drug testing in low and middle income countries. Clinical trials in these countries often involve vulnerable people, raising serious ethical questions.

We push pharmaceutical companies to act with due diligence in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in relation to peoples’ participation in clinical trials, as well as Post-Trial Access (PTA) to medicine.

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the bigger picture

Sustainable Supply Chains

Many of the problems facing people in middle and low income countries (indirectly) result from the practices and policies of multinational corporations at the end of the supply chain.

This can be seen in the supply chains of the garment industry, electronics sector, food production and pharmaceutical industry.

Bad working conditions and unsustainable practices

Many people in these sectors are working under inhumane and dangerous conditions with little or no respect for labour rights or environmental standards. Excessive hours, low wages and precarious employment conditions are common in supply chains of the garments, electronics and food sectors. It’s no coincidence that those who are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation – migrants, young people and women – are heavily employed in these sectors.

Binding regulations and good practices

Together with trade unions and other civil society organisations, SOMO presses for the promotion and protection of the rights of workers, communities and individuals in all stages of supply chains. SOMO pushes for regulation, policies and practices that ensure decent work and sustainability, including legally enforceable corporate accountability mechanisms and a leading role for workers in monitoring and ensuring improvement of workplace conditions. SOMO promotes sustainable public procurement which, by mobilising the massive purchasing power of the public sector, can bring about structural improvements in supply chains.

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Updates on this topic

Post-Trial Acces to Treatment

The paper ‘Post-Trial Acces To Treatment’ gives an overview of corporate best practices related to the provision of Post-Trial Access to Treatment (PTA) in low and middle income countries (LMICs). SOMO analysed the policies of…

Improving protection of test subjects in clinical trials

In recent years, SOMO’s pharmaceutical team has focused on research and lobbying to safeguard the rights of test subjects in clinical trials that take place in low income countries. After the publication of ‘Putting Contract…

Controversial practices in outsourcing of clinical trials

More than half of all clinical trials are outsourced by pharmaceutical companies to subcontractors, the so-called Contract Research Organisations (CROs). As a result quality standards and the independent inspection process are jeopardised, with many negative…

Debate and publications on medicine testing in poor countries

On Friday 17 December, Stichting Wemos, together with student association IFMSA-NL, is organising a screening of the English-language film ‘Body Hunters’, on the testing of medicines in India. Wemos will also be launching its book,…

Pfizer should make ethics a priority

Pharmaceuticals company Pfizer pays out up to 53 million euros to settle legal claims relating to a controversial drug trial in Nigeria. “It’s a pity that Pfizer still won’t admit blame,” says Annelies den Boer…

A step forward in the unethical testing issue

The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) has announced that it wants to implement improved monitoring of compliance of ethical guidelines for clinical medical research outside the European Union. A lobbying success, according to Wemos. But it…