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Pharmaceutical Production in Common


In late 2021 the French group, Remix the Commons, began exploring the possibility of pharmaceutical production organised as a commons. This proposition soon cohered a network of interested parties including union activists who work or have worked in production or research within the pharmaceutical industry. In February 2022 Abundance were invited to join the network to explore the possible implementation of a Public-Common Partnership (PCP) model in the sector.

The project is motivated by a series of problems arising from the private and Public-Private Partnership production of pharmaceuticals for the market. These problems include acute shortages of essential ‘out of patent’ medicines in France, as well as a lack of pharmaceutical production capacities within Europe more generally. The experience of the COVID pandemic highlighted both the fragility of the current model of pharmaceutical production and the dire consequences of privately held intellectual property on the production of medicines and vaccines.

The project aims to establish first one and then a network of commonly owned and governed pharmaceutical production factories embedded within local health communities, alongside other compatible models. Pharmaceutical production delivered this way presents many possibilities. It sits more comfortably within a holistic approach to health than private production for the market. Rather than the aim of maximising the sale of pharmaceuticals, a PCP model could divert a proportion of profits to projects addressing environmental causes of ill health, for example, thereby reducing the need for pharmacological interventions. Production would initially focus on ‘out of patent’ medicines but in house research capacities could be built up over time. While specific sites in France are currently being explored the model will have potential much further afield.